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

Programme Manager

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 Programme Manager. 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

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' Assessor

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.

Charlotte Webb

Parent/Carer Group Facilitator

Charlotte has recently joined HOLG to develop the Parent/Carer service. She will bring a fresh creative approach to this role, supporting parents and carers through their grief using a variety of techniques including drama, art, play and story telling and equipping them, in turn, to support their children. Charlotte has worked as a family practitioner at Barnardos and Kent County Council.

Caroline Gaskin

Fundraising Officer

Caroline joined us from PTAUK where she was responsible for helping schools and members to maximise their fundraising potential. Caroline’s role within HOLG is to increase our income from community fundraising, building a base of committed supporters, and engaging with businesses and other organisations to ensure the future security and development of our charity.

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 ensuring all health and safety requirements of the charity are met. Des is a retired police officer and now runs his own business.

Margaret Gallagher

Margaret Gallagher

Deputy Chair

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

Ess Savidge

Ess Savidge


Ess is a Nurse and has worked for many years within the palliative care setting. Ess works closely with the Programme Manager and Fundraising Officer to write many of our grant applications.

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.