Supporting bereaved children & their families in Kent

Holding On Letting Go

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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 six part-time staff and one full-time staff member – the CEO, a Programme Manager, a Programme Assistant, a Parent/Carer’s Group Facilitator, 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 seven 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 worked for the Charity as a volunteer working directly alongside bereaved children for more than 12 years. She was Programme Manager from 2012 and promoted to CEO at the beginning of 2018. This is a more strategic role and Caroline will be working to further develop the services we provide to children and their families. Caroline, who has a PG Diploma in counselling children, joined our team with a wide experience of working with children, and of charity administration and fundraising.


Debbie McSwiney

Clinical Lead – Children, Young People & Families

Debbie was a founder member of the charity and served as a volunteer and Operational Trustee for HOLG for 19 years. In 2018 she was appointed full-time Clinical Lead. Debbie will be responsible for running a responsive and efficient service for children and families to help them cope with their bereavements as well as the day to day running of the charity. She comes with a background in children’s and adult nursing both in the acute sector and palliative care sector she also has a speciality in counselling.

Caroline Norman

Caroline Norman

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.


Emily Yates

Children and Families’ Clinical Specialist

Emily joined us in January 2018 as Children and Families’ Assessor. She is responsible for making home visits to assess children for their suitability to attend our bereavement support weekends and to carry out follow-up visits to see how families’ are getting on after our weekend, signposting on for further help if appropriate. Emily has a background working in schools and as a bereavement counsellor with two local charities.

Pam Meller

Pam Meller

Fundraising Officer (East Kent)

Pam joined us early in 2020. After starting her working life in the food industry and then working in a primary school when her children were young. She spent 6 years in a fundraising role with The Pilgrims Hospices in Canterbury and Ashford before moving on to work as a funeral arranger which gave her an insight into loss and bereavement. Having lived all her life on the Romney Marsh, Pam has a wealth of business and personal contacts in East Kent which will help to spread awareness of the work of HOLG in the local area.

Dawn Bradley

Dawn Bradley

Parent/Carer Facilitator

Dawn joined us as Parent/Carer Facilitator in May 2021, but has been involved with HOLG since 2013, working alongside children on our Bereavement Support weekends or helping to facilitate the Parent/Carer group. Dawn’s background was originally in nursing and she has worked  many roles including as a health visitor and palliative care specialist nurse. A trained counsellor, Dawn is the ideal person to develop the services we provide for the parents and carers whose children are referred to us, both as part of a group or for more tailored one to one support.


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

Margaret Gallagher

Margaret Gallagher

Chair of Trustees

Margaret is a retired Educational Psychologist. Margaret also works as a volunteer on our Bereavement Support Weekends, often with the Parent/Carers’ Group.

Ess Savidge

Ess Savidge

Deputy Chair

Ess is a Nurse and has worked for many years within the palliative care setting. Ess works closely with the CEO and Fundraising Officers supporting our fundraising activities.

Joan Morris

Joan Morris


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

Alison Brookman


Alison works locally in Kent as a Head of Human Resources. She has responsibility as a trustee in this area too ensuring we are compliant with employment legislation.

Kate Trevelyan


Kate started her Holding On Letting Go journey when she attended a bereavement support weekend at 14 following the death of her mother. She has been volunteering for the last 7 years working with children and supporting weekends. She is now one of our trustees and hopes to help introduce new volunteers and support our user engagement with her experiences from the charity.

Anita Turner


Anita is currently working within the Community in the NHS as a Specialist Paediatric Nurse Advisor, with previous experience of palliative care, Bereavement Counselling and Clinical Supervision. Anita provides clinical supervision for the facilitators of our Parent/Carer groups and also supports some of the families referred to us who have been affected by trauma.

Brian Downton

Brian Downton


Brian is a local businessman who has been supporting HOLG for several years. He is a keen cyclist and participant in endurance events and has raised thousands of pounds for HOLG through his challenge events.