Oscar-winning actress Kate Winslet has donated £17,000 ($20,000) to a mother facing astronomical home energy bills to operate her disabled daughter’s life-support equipment.
Carolynne Hunter’s 12-year-old daughter Freya has cerebral palsy as well as other severe health problems and disabilities. She relies on receiving oxygen for chronic breathing problems and receives 24-hour at-home nursing care.
Earlier this month, the mother of four from Clackmannanshire, Scotland launched a GoFundMe campaign to help raise £20,000 ($24,000) for the running costs of the equipment that keeps her daughter alive.
“My annual cost for Electric & Gas as forecasted by an energy advisor at Clacks Council will most likely be around £17,000,” Hunter explained on the fundraising page.
She told BBC Scotland that it currently costs her family £6,500 ($7,600) a year to run the equipment and heat the home, and they have already been forced to cut back in recent months. To keep costs as low as possible, Freya’s room was the only one being heated in order to keep her and the healthcare workers comfortable.
“The council have put solar panels up to help with blackouts but don’t think it’ll help with the bill,” Hunter said.
Days into the campaign, a donation of £17,000 marked “Kate Winslet and family” was paid to the fundraiser.
Hunter said she was overwhelmed by the generosity of the screen star, who also reached out to wish the family well.
Winslet is a patron of Go Beyond, a charity that provides free respite breaks for disadvantaged and underprivileged children across the UK.
“Our journey as a family has been very traumatic and I just feel done at this point in my life,” Hunter told BBC Scotland.
“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?”
CNN has reached out to Hunter and to Winslet’s representatives for comment.
Hunter and her family are among millions of Britons facing a challenging winter amid the UK’s economic turmoil and soaring energy costs.
“I’m going to be helped but what about everyone else?” she added. “I wanted the government to pay for it and do the right thing – it shouldn’t have to be a celebrity that steps in.”
In September, research firm Auxilione estimated that without a new plan to hold down prices, the average yearly energy bill for millions could top £5,700 ($6,700) from next April.
The government announced in May that UK households would receive a £400 reduction in energy bills, spread over six months from October.
And earlier this month, the Department for Work and Pensions said more than eight million households receiving benefits would get a £324 ($381) payment to help with the rise in the cost of living before the end of November.
“We understand that people are struggling and that is why we’ve consistently acted to ensure millions of low-income families are supported,” Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride said in a press statement.
“We will continue to act with compassion as we navigate challenging global economic circumstances.”
Reacting to Hunter’s plea for help, Scotland’s Social Justice Secretary, Shona Robison, told CNN in a statement: “We are painfully aware of the hardship people are facing right now, which is why the Scottish Government is doing all it can to support households in need.”
Robison added that while the power to cap energy prices rests with the UK government, “the Scottish Government has allocated almost £3 billion this financial year that will help households face the increased cost of living and rising energy prices.”
CNN has also reached out to UK energy minister Grant Shapps for comment.
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