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KS3 Citizenship: Cathy Come Home (1966)

This hard-hitting drama offers a way into looking at housing problems today

Main image of KS3 Citizenship: Cathy Come Home (1966)
AuthorPoppy Simpson, BFI
TopicHousing and homelesness
Key Words housing rights, social housing, council housing, homelessness
Show full lesson spec

Cathy and Reg fall on hard times when Reg is injured at work. They begin a slide into poverty, debt and homelessness, until the authorities forcibly take Cathy's children away

Cathy Come Home (1966) is not a film about homelessness but about the failure of the housing and social welfare systems to support families that are struggling to get by. Shot in an observational documentary style and using occasional voice-overs from real people, Cathy Come Home led to public outrage at the state of housing in Britain when it was first broadcast by the BBC. The film brings up all sorts of issues and is perhaps best used as a way into looking at the housing system in the UK today: how much has our housing system improved since the 1960s? Where do families like Reg and Cathy's go for support now? What are people's attitudes towards homelessness today?

In this lesson students explore Reg and Cathy's story before researching the housing system today and the support provided across the UK to different groups of people facing housing difficulties. Students are also asked to consider the power of television in creating public awareness and encouraging political action.

Many of the issues surrounding homelessness are incredibly sensitive so please watch the extracts (in particular A troublemaker) before showing them in class to ensure they are appropriate.

Lesson Objective

  • To understand the work of housing charities and government bodies in providing support to those in need of a home and to compare the housing system today with the 1960s.


Show students all four short extracts (listed in order below) without any background information or preparation. The aim is to give students a broad understanding of the story of the film - can they fill in the gaps between the clips. What questions do they have? Suggested focus questions for each extract might be:

  • Housing interview: Who has Cathy gone to see? What problem does Cathy have? What seems to be unfair about the process of buying a house? How do you think Reg's accident will affect the family?
  • The eviction: Where are Reg and Cathy living now? How might they have found the property? Who owns the property? What is happening to them in this scene?
  • Looking for a home: Why are Reg and Cathy struggling to find a house? What kinds of housing does Reg look into? Where do they appear to be living? What are the dangers of their situation?
  • A troublemaker: What has changed since the last time we saw the couple? Who do you think Cathy is talking to? How does the final scene make you feel?

After watching the extracts, hear some of students' initial responses. What is the film about? When do they think the film was made? What do they notice about the style of filming?

If students would like more detailed contextual information about the film, they can read the Screenonline analysis in the main area of the site (link on the right under Related Films and TV programmes).


Main Attraction

How has the housing system has changed since the 1960s and what kind of support could Cathy and Reg look for or rely on today?

Challenge students to produce an A4 double sided leaflet, providing basic information on people's rights regarding housing in the either England Scotland or Wales, how homelessness is defined and the organisations and institutions that provide support for those who are living without a home or in temporary/overcrowded accommodation. The leaflets should be targeted at one or more specific groups (left to students' discretion), which might include:

  • families like Reg and Cathy's
  • young people (below or above the age of 18)
  • vulnerable people - in fear of abuse of any kind

Encourage students to work in small groups, dividing up the the research and negotiating a design and layout. Some useful website links are included below.

Given their research, do students think that the housing system has improved compared to the situation shown in Cathy Come Home? Is there still shortage of affordable housing in the UK?


End Credits

Cathy Come Home had a real impact on public awareness regarding housing when it was first broadcast and even led to questions being asked in Prime Minister's question time. Why do students think the film had such a powerful effect? It might be useful to discuss the documentary style of the film in this context.

To wrap up, pose the following question: does TV today have the power to inform people about social problems and encourage political action? It's a tough one, but it will certainly produce some interesting thoughts!


External Links
The housing charity Shelter's website
The Chief Executive of the charity Shelter on Cathy Come Home (1966)
What is homelessness and what are the reasons behind it?
Housing for Young People in Wales
Housing for young people in Scotland
How affordable is housing?

Video Clips
1. Housing interview (2:37)
2. The eviction (1:59)
3. Looking for a home (2:27)
4. A troublemaker (3:46)
Downloadable Teaching Resources

Related Films and TV programmes

Thumbnail image of Cathy Come Home (1966)Cathy Come Home (1966)

Read more about this programme

See also