Homecoming - Sue Essex's CIH centenary lecture
The CIH Cymru centenary lecture series was kicked off in style at our AGM on the 25th April 2016 by Sue Essex, former Minister for Finance, Local Government and Public Services. Julie Nicholas, policy and public affaris manager at CIH Cymru introduced Sue and in this blog she introduces some of the lecture highlights too.
I was privileged to introduce Sue Essex for the inaugural CIH Cymru lecture last week, and to set the CIH context of 100 years of professionalism in the management of social housing before Sue began. Sue was the author of the 2008 Essex review on affordable housing commissioned by Welsh Government; a seminal report that continues to influence housing policy in Wales. Her CIH Cymru lecture was called ‘Give housing a chance’ and you can watch it on Facebook or on YouTube in full (it's a long'un and includes the Q&A session so make a cuppa first!).
Throughout the lecture Sue referenced the 1966 docu-drama Cathy Come Home. As luck would have it we had a TAI tombola of 100 prizes for 100 years on our CIH Cymru conference stand ready to go - featuring a number of housing-related prizes – and one of those prizes was a DVD of Cathy come home.
I wasn’t born when it was first broadcast, but I remember watching this Ken Loach directed film for the first time when I was in my early 20s, in my student dorm, making my way through the college video library instead of revising. This first viewing had a profound effect on me; in fact I watched it twice that day. Becoming homeless was so easy. The destruction of a family was so easy. How could this be?
At 50 years of age Cathy come home remains a seminal piece of television. It created a public outcry about the 1960s housing crisis and the consequences of poverty on working class families. As viewers we watch Cathy’s forced workhouse-style separation firstly from her husband Reg, and finally from her children, by a state that chose to punish rather than support its citizens as they descend into homelessness. Shelter (although already being set up at the time of the broadcast) was launched a few days after the programme, Crisis a year later. Both are organisations, like CIH, that continue to shape housing policy and bang the drum for housing. It took another 11 years for the 1977 Housing (Homeless Persons) Act to pass - giving local authorities a legal requirement to house homeless people in priority need. However as a piece of social commentary Cathy come home remains a powerful indictment of the wrongs and rights of state interventions and approaches to relieving poverty. It also remains a strong indictment of the importance of providing homes if your government wishes to do so.
Sue focussed as much on what we get right in Wales in her lecture as she did on what has gone wrong in the past. She talked about the ‘devolution dividend’ that has ensued so far; continued investment in social homes and housing-related support, the Housing Act (Wales) 2014 with its progressive homelessness prevention duty, tenancy reform, an ethos of collaboration and integration, the one-housing system we like to bang on about at CIH Cymru.
We intend to hold three more lectures across Wales in 2016 to celebrate 100 years of the housing profession, hosted by NPT Homes, Cartrefi Conwy and Monmouthshire Housing. If you are a CIH member please try to go to one and participate in the centenary activities. It is important to look back at how far we have travelled, it is more important that we keep banging the drum for affordable homes and keep giving housing a chance.
What we think
Nobody won the Cathy come home DVD in the TAI tombola - which means it is still up for grabs.