Blog: Cardboard Citz's role in the Homelessness Reduction Act

Posted on: 15 April 2018

Written by: Michael Chandler

No One Turned Away – the campaign that led to the Homelessness Reduction Act –won best Coalition Campaign at this year’s National Campaigning Awards. Cardboard Citizens is proud of the significant role we played in this campaign. 

In 2014, a group of Cardboard Citizens Member actors were trained as mystery shoppers to conduct visits to housing offices, for research being led by Crisis. This became the Turned Away report, which became Crisis’ No One Turned Away campaign. And in turn, the Homelessness Reduction Bill. 

It’s been fascinating watching Crisis – working in coalition with other charities – taking this Bill through Parliament. We’ve also been very proud to say that our Members and team played an integral role at the inception of the Bill; a role which has been formally recognised at the National Campaign Awards.

“The campaign secured the first significant change in homelessness legislation in England for 40 years. From April, English councils will be obliged to help people at risk of becoming or who are already homeless, regardless of whether they are deemed ‘intentionally homeless’ or in priority need.

“Crisis worked with Cardboard Citizens to build an evidence base. Crisis then convened a panel to develop legislative proposals, found an MP (Bob Blackman, Conservative MP for Harrow East) to sponsor a bill, mobilised 80,000 supporters, built a coalition of support among the homelessness sector, and persuaded the Government to support the Bill.’ Sheila McKechnie Foundation.

Cardboard Citizens' CathyOur first tour of Cathy coincided with the Homelessness Reduction Bill’s passage through Parliament. From autumn 2016 to spring 2017, we played to audiences across the country – including MPs, councillors and people in power – ensuring the issues around homelessness were at the forefront of conversations. During the tour we gathered audience’s ideas for the audiences’ own suggestions for legislative changes that would improve things for the likes of Cathy. Over the tour we gained over 640 law suggestions.

On the eve of the Homelessness Reduction Bill’s final reading in February 2017, we brought Cathy to the House of Lords alongside Bob Blackman, John Healey and the Homes for Cathy group. Here we presented the country’s top five Cathy Laws to MPs and Lords.

Three of our Members reprised their roles as undercover Mystery Shoppers for Channel 4’s Dispatches, which also aired in February 2017, as the bill passed through Parliament.

Cardboard Citizens is excited to share our next steps in supporting the new legislation, advocating on behalf of the homeless, and ensuring real social change:

Bringing the Homelessness Reduction Act into force – Local authority staff training

Secondly, to ensure the Homelessness Reduction Act has the best possible impact and outcomes for homeless people, we are providing training to local authority and partner housing staff. Using a shortened version of Cathy, our Forum Theatre and legislative theatre techniques, we’re supporting LA staff to identify what they need to improve to bring the Act into force – from individual behaviour, culture shifts, better partner working, earlier interventions and systemic and procedural changes. We have run these consultation events with 8 LAs and groups, and are exploring how we roll this out.

This is a different, very innovative way to engage staff. People were able to get into a different headspace and interacted really well. Every authority, everywhere you need staff to understand the pressures that customers find as well as the staff, I think this is a perfect and different way of talking to people.” Redbridge Council          

Homegrown campaigners

Following the success of our mystery shopper ,embers, which led to several media appearances for some, we are running some exciting new programmes empowering more members to become the voice and advocates of homelessness themselves. Our Citz Young Story Tellers Programme is training a number of young people with lived experience in campaigning skills and through performing arts processes, enabling them to identify and develop their own campaigns around youth homelessness. More info soon...

For more information about Cathy and its remaining tour dates in Scotland, Wales and London, click here.