In the course of making the programme “Trapped By My Mortgage” contributors would often ask, “what will happen after it goes out?” I just didn’t know. I’d tell them the programme would be high profile, that I thought people would be sympathetic, and that I would put them all in touch with each other after the programme aired.
But I couldn’t have predicted what actually happened.
Of course it helped that Rachel Neale was part of the programme.
I found Rachel on Twitter. In the research for the programme I realised there were a lot of mortgage prisoners but not many knew that they were. With the team, we reached out to hundreds of people who had taken out mortgages with Northern Rock. Names were scraped from postings from homeowners on social media platforms, money advice forums and repossession listings.
Rachel had once called out to a silent Twittersphere. We met at a train station cafe where she handed over statements and letters from NRAM and Landmark. For years she’d had a sense that something was terribly wrong with her mortgage and she was damned if this wasn’t the opportunity to get some answers.
At the same time I’d met Lisa and Mark Elkins who believed they were paying well over the odds. Handing over the data to Marta de Sousa she confirmed it was a gobsmacking amount more than they should be paying. They were so instantly relatable I knew they would have to be in it too.
Benefits News put out lots of tweets and Ian emerged with this outlandish story of being evicted, made homeless then re-installed after a court found he wasn’t in arrears after all. It stacked up. My final challenge was finding someone sadly being repossessed and a lucky letter found us Sean, who was big enough to allow us to film him at such a sensitive time.
The film was falling into place. I had the whistleblower from a previous investigation into UKAR who’d given me a single interview that revealed how aggressively it collected money or repossessed. I was sent letters between Lord McFall and the former head of UKAR Richard Banks from when the sale to Cerberus was announced. There was Banks reassuring Lord McFall that the sale would offer mortgage holders new deals and lower interest rates – but that never transpired. So what happened?
Well, as all of you know who watched the programme, there was some kind of understanding that Cerberus would offer new deals. But weren’t allowed (as if they didn’t know that?) and no one could make them. The deal went ahead and securitisation expert Dr Lux reckons Cerberus makes well over £90 million a year from the mortgages.
The findings of the film were outrageous. The government had kept you all on high interest rates and paid off all the original bondholders who funded the mortgages, then sold you to an aggressive vulture fund – who was pocketing an even bigger amount.
Watching the facebook Mortgage Prisoners group grow so quickly as people started recognising themselves in the film was exciting. As was seeing it mentioned at Select Committee so swiftly. I connected Rachel with the others in the film, and in particular she and Sean formed a strong alliance as a campaign emerged
I’ve never made any work that’s had an impact like this but obviously the programme was just the start.
I’m just in total awe of the Mortgage Prisoners UK team and the whole community that’s formed around it. The energy of the group and its inclusive, positive vibe is surely a model for citizen-driven change.
Speaking of change..
The setting up of the APPG, the debate in Parliament, going to see Nicky Morgan in person with Treasury Committee representatives, your meetings with the FCA and the FOS. These are all incredible achievements, but I share the frustration that change has not been as forthcoming..yet..as it seemed in those heady months after the programme went out.
But I keep across what’s happening in the media, where there’s been consistently positive coverage, and from Rachel (who I would be worried if I didn’t hear from at least once a week!).
There’s clearly lots to play for. Going in person to talk to banks and building societies is a blinding move and exactly the kind of direct action I would expect!
Over the months of researching and making the film I encountered a huge amount of despair from mortgage prisoners. Being part of this movement on a relentless quest for justice, whilst offering hope and support to hundreds and hundreds of people, has been a huge privilege and I wish it all the luck in the world for proper redress.