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Kate Winslet On Why She Paid Family’s £17,000 Energy Bill

December 8, 2022

Kate Winslet told Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg that more needed to be done for people in special circumstances

Kate Winslet has revealed she donated £17,000 to pay a soaring energy bill for a child’s life support after being deeply moved by her family’s plight.

Carolynne Hunter was warned by Clackmannanshire Council that her bill could hit the high sum next year.

Her daughter Freya, 13, has severe cerebral palsy and relies on receiving oxygen for chronic breathing problems.

The Oscar-winning actress said the original BBC Scotland story “absolutely destroyed me”.

Ms Hunter said she was reduced to tears by Winslet’s intervention.

The Hollywood star was asked about her donation on the BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg.

On how she heard about it, Winslet told the programme: “Something popped up on the BBC Scotland news page about this woman, Carolynne Hunter’s story.

“And her saying that she would have to put her child, who has severe cerebral palsy and very, very extreme needs and is non-verbal, that she was going to have to put her child into care because she could not afford her electricity bills.

“And it absolutely destroyed me. I just thought on what planet is anyone going to let that happen, this is completely, completely wrong.”

After reading the story last month Winslet said she was determined to do something about it.

The actress added: “We were able to track her down and say that I had wanted to make a donation, and it was because of that that they then set up a GoFundMe page, and bang, I was able to do it right away.

“And it just felt – I just – it was just wrong to me that this woman was going to suffer and that she should have been in any way as a mother forced to make such a heart-breaking decision because she simply didn’t have the support and couldn’t pay the bills.

“I just couldn’t let that happen.”

Asked by Laura Kuenssberg what the story said about the UK as a country, Winslet replied: “I think we just – I mean, people just – the powers that be need to have a good think and they need to get it right.

“And they need to make changes that will actually help these people.”

‘Very little support’

She said adults have always been great at fundraising for groups, other adults and large groups of children.

But Winslet added: “I have always been really cut in half by the plight of the individual.

“And there seems to be very little support for individuals whose situations are extreme.”

The actress’ new film, I am Ruth, focuses on protecting young people from social media.

And Winslet told the programme the government should make social media firms enforce age limits to help tackle their impact on children’s mental health.

She also praised England footballer Marcus Rashford’s “extraordinary” campaign to ensure no child in need went hungry during the pandemic.

On Sunday, Ms Hunter told BBC Reporting Scotland about the moment GoFundMe informed her about the actress’ donation.

She said: “When they contacted me to say that Kate Winslet wanted to help our family I actually could not believe it.

“I was kind of in shock. It was a wee bit surreal.”

When she later discovered the Titanic star had pledged £17,000, Ms Hunter said: “I just cried.”

She added: “What Kate has done is she has recognised Freya in a society and a world that Freya is very hidden.

“Life is not accessible for Freya because she has such a high level of medical need.”

Lifesaving donations

Ms Hunter, 49, also said the prospect of her daughter having to leave the family home if they could not not afford their energy bills was “unthinkable”.

She said: “I know that the reason Freya is here today is the love and care that we provide here at home to keep her comfortable and happy.

“That would not be happening in hospital or residential care. I don’t think Freya would survive.

“Everybody who has donated and helped Freya have saved her life.”

The Hunters live in a large council house in Tillicoultry – which is not energy efficient – so there is space for Freya’s equipment.

At present it costs them £6,500 a year to run the kit and heat the home – though Ms Hunter said she had turned the heating off in most rooms to save money.

Although she works full time on a moderate wage, she does not receive the same support as those on low incomes.

Ms Hunter also worries 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 require help from at least two NHS nurses or staff from self-directed support (SDS) – a form of social care.

Staff monitor Freya’s heart rate as well as oxygen levels and carry out frequent suctioning to keep her airways clear.

In recent months Freya’s room was the only one to be heated in order to keep her and her staff comfortable – but Ms Hunter said they have had to cut back.

Before Winslet’s donation, Ms Hunter said her biggest worry was facing fuel poverty amid the cost of living crisis.

Ms Hunter also said she would like to see Scottish and UK governments stepping in to support families with care responsibilities who may end up struggling.

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