Simon Read: Now is not the time for comedy goals

Housing minister John Healey's vital video advice for struggling homeowners
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The Independent Online

The biggest YouTube hit of last year? Susan Boyle's first appearance on Britain's Got Talent when she moved the judges to tears with her version of "I Dreamed a Dream". Housing minister John Healey is unlikely to emulate "SuBo", pictured below, or even the much-watched roller-skating babies – which is a great shame.

His new YouTube clip is unlikely to go viral and be seen by millions. Indeed, his previous YouTube clip posted more than a year ago has only been viewed by 255 people. But that lack of interest in Healey's messages means the new video is likely to be missed by the people it's aimed at: those who are in danger of losing their homes. In the clip, which debuted yesterday, he urges struggling homeowners to make it their New Year's resolution to seek early help, take control of their finances and avoid repossession. Frankly, Healey has not got the greatest personality. His presentation of the video, which includes footage of him at charity National Debtline's offices in Birmingham, is flat, to be kind. But the message deserves to be heard.

"January is a time to make a fresh start and get on top of your problems," Healey advises viewers. He suggests that anyone struggling to pay their mortgage should seek help now, rather than burying their head in the sand, which is the traditional solution for many. His advice is very timely, of course, as January bills will bring fresh debt for those who overspent at Christmas.

He also details the extra help the Government is offering. "I want homeowners to know there's free help with their mortgage, by phone, website and local money advice agencies," says Healey. "I'm extending free advice services with £4m extra government cash, and we're running a series of local events in 56 repossession 'hotspots' so face-to-face help is also on hand where it is most needed.

"I'm also making sure we continue our special help in court. Even at the eleventh hour, when families are in court, we're able to stop four out of five repossessions. The earlier people act, the more options they have and the better chance they have of safeguarding their home."

Watching the three-minute video is nowhere near as much fun as checking out the latest carefully choreographed wedding dance or comedy own-goals compilation, but it's much more important. If it helps more people avoid the misery of repossession in 2010 then I for one will offer Healey my thanks.

You can watch his YouTube message at tinyurl.com/yhod6b2, although you may find the need for a little light relief afterwards. Struggling homeowners worried about repaying their mortgage can go to www.direct.gov.uk/mortgagehelp for guidance on the steps they can take to keep their home or call for free advice from Shelter on 0300 3300 515.

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