The actor Kate Winslet has donated £17,000 to a woman facing a sky-high energy bill to operate her daughter’s life support equipment.
Carolynne Hunter was warned by Clackmannanshire council, in Scotland, that her bill could hit the high sum next year.
Her daughter Freya, 12, has severe cerebral palsy and relies on receiving oxygen for chronic breathing problems.
Hunter said she was overwhelmed when the Titanic actor intervened after hearing their struggle reported on the BBC.
Winslet donated £17,000 to the family’s GoFundMe page and contacted them to wish them well.
Hunter, 49, said: “Our journey as a family has been very traumatic and I just feel done at this point in my life.
“When I heard about the money I just burst into tears – I thought it wasn’t even real. I’m still thinking: is this real?”
The Hunters live in a council house in Tillicoultry, which is large to accommodate Freya’s equipment, but is not energy efficient.
At present, it costs them £6,500 a year to run the kit and heat the home – though Hunter said she had turned the heating off in most rooms to save money.
While she works fulltime on a moderate wage, Hunter does not receive the same support as those on low incomes.
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She said she worried that possible winter power cuts in the event of reduced gas supply – a result of Russia’s war on Ukraine – could put Freya’s care at risk. In addition to cerebral palsy, Freya relies on receiving oxygen for breathing problems – particularly through the night.
The family requires help from at least two NHS nurses or staff from self-directed support – a form of social care. Staff monitor Freya’s heart rate and oxygen levels, and carry out frequent suctioning to keep her airways clear.
In recent months, Freya’s room was the only one being heated in order to keep her and the healthcare workers comfortable, but Hunter said they had had to cut back.
“We’re still freezing and we’re not even at minus temperatures yet,” she said. “I am nipping at the staff not to put the heating on unless it’s necessary.
“The council have put solar panels up to help with blackouts but don’t think it’ll help with the bill.”
The family are one of millions across the UK bracing for a challenging winter of rising energy bills that experts predict will plunge many into destitution and cause an increase in avoidable deaths.
Winslet, who lives in a village in West Sussex, is patron of the Family Haven, a charity formed to help disadvantaged and vulnerable families in Gloucestershire.