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.
Jeremy Sandford’s drama about a young family’s downfall was a defining moment in 1960s television, demonstrating how far drama could influence the political agenda. The controversy generated by Cathy Come Home led to public outrage at the state of housing in Britain, and gave a welcome boost to the (coincidental) launch of the homelessness charity Shelter a few days after the play was first broadcast, as part of the BBC’s The Wednesday Play strand.
The play follows young lovers Cathy and Reg from the optimism of their early married days through a spiral of misfortune that follows Reg’s work accident, leading to eviction and separation, and culminating, in what remains one of TV’s most memorable scenes, in a hysterical Cathy having her children forcibly taken away by Social Services.
The success of Cathy Come Home established director Ken Loach as a politically committed filmmaker standing apart from the commercial mainstream, and demonstrated again his sensitivity to his characters.