Supporting bereaved children & their families in Kent

Holding On Letting Go

make a difference donate now

About us

Holding On Letting Go is a Kent-based charity that helps children to cope with the death of someone close to them.

If you have experienced the death of an important person in your life and are struggling to cope – we are here to help.

Our vision is a world in which every bereaved child, and their family, receives the support they need.
Our purpose is to provide bereavement support to promote resilience and provide emotional support to children, young people and their families and carers and assisting them to move positively through the grieving process.

We believe that:

  • Grief is a normal, unavoidable process (not an illness or aberration)
  • Every child should have access to appropriate bereavement support
  • With appropriate support, a child can develop resilience and move positively through to adulthood and can develop coping strategies for positive mental health in adult life
  • With timely interventions, children and young people are less likely to engage in risky, antisocial and / or offending behaviours
  • Children should be supported to achieve their potential
  • Children should be heard and encouraged to express themselves
  • Children should be given the opportunity to explore feelings and emotions and understand that these change over time
  • Our bereavement services should be free at the point of access
  • We believe in the value of volunteering
  • We believe in treating everybody according to their needs
  • We believe in sound governance and management to the highest professional standards in all our spheres of activity

HOLG was conceived by a group of counsellors, social workers and other professionals working in the area of palliative care (including Debbie McSwiney one of our Trustees and founding members). They were being contacted to ask for support for bereaved children who were not under the hospices’ umbrella; namely those who had experienced a sudden bereavement. There was no service available for these children.

They formed a committee in 1998 and set about forming HOLG– providing bereavement support to children in Kent and Medway. In 2005 it was decided to apply for charitable status.

HOLG has grown over the years and we are now entering a new phase; implementing our business plan and fundraising strategy. The aim is to increase the public’s awareness of us, encourage more referrals, increase the services we provide and increase our funding.

The charity employs five part-time staff – a Programme Manager, a Programme Assistant, a Children and Families Assessor, a Fundraising Officer and a Finance Officer. The charity is also supported by over 100 volunteers who make the weekends possible by supporting children on a one-to-one basis, assisting with driving or catering or helping out with administrative tasks. These volunteers are recruited, vetted, trained and supported by the charity.

The charity is governed by a board of five trustees, all of whom have a relevant background ranging from professional healthcare to a retired police officer. All the trustees are committed and involved in the charity. Many also volunteer for the bereavement support weekends.


Our work is managed and organised by a small team. These individuals take care of all activities of the charity.

Caroline Ford

Caroline Ford

Programme Manager

Caroline worked for the Charity as a volunteer working directly alongside bereaved children for more than 12 years. She has been our Programme Manager for 4 years. This role involves the efficient running of the Charity on a day to day basis. Caroline, who has a PG Diploma in counselling children, joined our team with a wide experience of working with children, and of fundraising.

Caroline Pittard

Caroline Pittard

Programme Assistant

Caroline is based in our office in Rochester and helps provide smooth day to day running of the office. She works closely with our Programme Manager to ensure the Charity runs effectively and that all families who contact us are dealt with sensitively and efficiently. Caroline has worked with the Charity since 2011.

Nikki Naziri

Nikki Naziri

Children and Families Assessor

In a new role within the charity, generously funded by The Brook and Amity Trusts, Nikki carries out all the home assessment and follow-up visits with families who are referred to our service. She comes to us with much experience and knowledge of working with children and families; for the past 15 years she has worked in various roles in both supportive and assessment positions across Kent and Medway.

caroline g

Caroline Gaskin

Fundraising Officer

For the last 12 years, Caroline has been helping schools and members of Parent Teacher Associations to maximise their fundraising potential – so we look forward to her doing the same at Holding On Letting Go. If you have an idea of something you’d like to do, please contact Caroline, who will be happy to provide assistance and guidance. If you’d just like to do something to fundraise for us, but have no idea where to start – Caroline would still love to hear from you!

Rose Davies

Finance Assistant

Rose recently joined the team in this finance role, having volunteered in the office for us for several years. She helped the Programme Manager to develop a database for recording the statistics required to produce monitoring and evaluation reports for our major funders.


We are governed by a board of Trustees. These individuals are all volunteers and are responsible for the safe governance of the charity.

Des McCarthy

Des McCarthy

Chair of Trustees

In addition to being chair, Des is responsible for our social media operations and health and safety. Des is a retired police officer and now runs his own business.

Margaret Gallagher

Margaret Gallagher

Deputy Chair and HR Trustee

Margaret is an Educational Psychologist working in Medway.

Ess Savidge

Ess Savidge


Ess is a Nurse and has worked for many years within the palliative care setting.

Joan Morris

Joan Morris


Joan’s role includes managing the charity’s finances, and ensuring statutory regulations are met.

Debbie McSwiney

Debbie McSwiney

Secretary and Operational Trustee

Debbie is one of the charities founding members. Of Holding On Letting Go. She is a Nurse and is head of Bereavement Services and deputy Head of Care in the south east’s children’s hospice. She provides clinical expertise to the board.