Our team

We’re a small but effective team of people who share a belief that the mental health issues many families experience are largely caused by external factors such as historic abuse and trauma in childhood and present day stresses like poverty, conflictual relationships and institutional pressures. Our focus is on offering free and locally delivered counselling and play therapy to low income families- children, young people and adults experiencing poor mental health and social disadvantage.


David Briggs was Managing Director of Dawsons Music from 1979 and sold the business on 2018. He has been Lord-Lieutenant of Cheshire since 2010 – The Queen’s representative in the County.  In addition to the ceremonial  role he setup Cheshire Community Foundation which has become a significant donor to Cheshire charities and also Cheshire Connect which gets local business and professional people to give of their time and skills to help local charities. Following his role as Chair of The Poverty Truth Commission in West Cheshire, he has started an initiative called Community Connectors, helping people in need find the help and support they require by joining up services which do exist but which can be difficult to find without help. 

“I have been very impressed with the work which Platform for Life does to help those with mental challenges in their life. It would be impossible to exaggerate the importance of their work which for many of their clients is life changing.”

Board of Trustees

Dr Andrew Garman- Chair andrew.garman@platformforlife.org.uk   Scientist by background, I’ve worked the majority of my career in the pharmaceuticals and life science sectors, leading to being Director of Strategy Development at AstraZeneca.  In 2006 I took early retirement and trained to be a counsellor, qualifying in 2009/10.  Since then I have counselled in a variety of settings in the NHS and charity sectors, as well as having my own private practice.  Founded Platform for Life in 2017, bringing counselling and play therapy to deprived communities with low access to appropriate mental health provision. I also act as a supervisor to other counsellors and have a strong interest in taking a strategic approach to tackling poor mental health in deprived communities.


Wendy Bell- Treasurer   After studying Botany at Durham University I spent 12 years at Liverpool University where, as Head of Readers’ Services, I specialised  in library automation. In 1989 I joined IBM where I performed a variety of roles from solution design and delivery to operations management. I led organisational change in times of growth and in challenging economic environments. My responsibilities have included strategic planning, financial management, risk management and corporate governance. I am also an experienced people manager with a good track record of coaching and mentoring.On retirement from IBM UK, I set up a consultancy business with my husband with a focus on STEM education and, more generally, narrowing the attainment gap for disadvantaged children. I’m excited to use my business skills to support Platform for Life.


John Breadon    I’m Northern Irish by birth and upbringing but now firmly Anglo-Irish in identity having moved to England in 1997. For 16 years I was a priest in the Church of England, mostly involved with religious education in colleges and schools. As of 2016, I am a part-time counsellor with a small private practice in Hoole. The rest of my time is spent on family life: this includes helping to raise two young boys, being a partner to Alison who runs CSASS (Chester Sexual Abuse Support Service), and giver of regular walks to Chops, a rescue Staffie. My mental health and wellbeing concerns focus on men and masculinity, the relationships between men and women in intimate partnerships, and the overlaps between religion, spirituality and therapy.


George Hartley     I was born in Preston and grew up in the Weald of Kent where I attended Cranbrook School. Thereafter I went to Cambridge University where I studied Geography before completing a Masters degree in Environmental Technology at Imperial College London. I embarked on a career in teaching and taught at various schools in southern England before becoming Headmaster of Elizabeth College in Guernsey for eight years in 2009. Since 2017 I have been Headmaster of The King’s School, Chester. I live in Handbridge, Chester with my family. My interests include rugby, cricket, cooking and mountaineering.


Councillor Trish Richards     I am a happily married woman; proud Mum and Grandmother.  Recently, on May 7th 2020 I celebrated 1 year in the challenging role of Blacon Ward Councillor.I was a Science teacher in high school for many years. Always involved in Trades Union activity in the workplace and through my involvement gained various qualifications regarding industrial relations. Eventually I left teaching to become the Local Negotiating Secretary of a leading teachers’ professional association. After leaving that role I went through rigorous training to become an ambassador for the NSPCC. Once qualified, I delivered workshops in Primary Schools. These sessions revealed to pupils (and teachers) the forms of abuse and the ambition of Childline to halt harm to children. Later I was employed by DOVE to promote body confidence to older high school students. I am very pleased to be part of Platform for Life.


Paul Rossiter     I am a solicitor and own a law firm which operates in North Wales and Cheshire and which often undertakes “pro bono” work for people in the local community. I have accepted a role as a Trustee at Platform for Life with the hope of being able to help more people in need in my local area. I live in Chester and am originally from Widnes, so I am a native to the North West, and I used to visit Chester when I was a child. I have always found it to be a lovely place and I am happy to now be engaged in making the lives of people in this area better.


Support team

Ceri George- CEO ceri.george@platformforlife.org.uk     I attended the University of Cardiff and joined the steel industry in 1989.  I spent much of my career in sales and marketing with Tata Steel where I rebuilt a failing brand, launched multiple new products and services, led major digital projects, and developed and managed high performing international marketing teams. In 2016 I left to start my own business, helping local small to medium enterprises develop their strategic focus and marketing skills. I worked on a voluntary basis as a marketing SkillShare partner with Cheshire West Voluntary Action, helping a number of local charities including OPAL Services and Neuromuscular Centre. I helped develop Platform for Life’s strategy before joining as CEO in March 2019. I am an award winning Chartered Marketer and Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and have an MBA from Warwick University.

Laura Nield Platform for Life administratorLaura Nield- Administrator laura.nield@platformforlife.org.uk.      I live in Chester with my husband and our two children. Before joining Platform for Life I practiced property law with a Chester based law firm. I decided to have a career change and wanted to find something that I could do that would make a real difference to our community. I have worked with Platform for Life since July 2019 as an administrator.  It’s an interesting and rewarding role in which I get to work with fantastic people. In my spare time I enjoy playing netball and being with my family.

Platform for Life counselling team

Della Austin- Lead practitioner della.austin@platformforlife.org.uk    I am a fully qualified counsellor and play therapist and hold Masters in Counselling, Play Therapy and Professional Studies. I’ve worked for many years as a Counsellor, Play therapist and University Lecturer and have developed counselling services in primary care and education. I was a lead partner in a Welsh Assembly Pilot Project for the Counselling in School Initiative within the Foundation Stage and have Contributed to the BACP Mind Ed project and been a member of the BAPT training and education sub-committee. I helped to establish Platform for Life in 2017 to offer families struggling with multiple challenges related to poverty and poor mental health, community-based counselling support. I’m member of the British Association of Counselling practitioners (BACP) and British Association of Play Therapists.


Rachael Hardman- Counsellor     I am a person-centred counsellor and registered member of the BACP. In my counselling practice I am compassionate and caring with a firm ethical and professional approach. I offer a warm, therapeutic space where clients can discuss whatever they may wish to without judgement. I joined Platform for Life in 2018 and have worked with a wide variety of clients and issues ranging from grief and bereavement, low self-esteem, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, abuse (in its many forms), workplace stress, everyday stressors, health conditions and loneliness. Beyond counselling, I have a background in health care and have worked in diverse, multinational and multicultural environments and enjoy working with diversity. I have practiced as a health educator and been a registered nurse for many years. In my nursing career I specialised in oncology and palliative care which, along with my personal life experience, has given me an intimate understanding of grief and loss. I hold a Master’s degree in Clinical Counselling (with distinction) and undertake regular ‘continuing professional development’ and recognise this as an important aspect of my current practice.


Helen McGlashan- Counsellor     I qualified as a counsellor in 2005 and graduated with a Master of Arts in Counselling at Chester University in 2013. I have been a member of the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy throughout my career, gaining accreditation with them in 2019. I began my career working for the NSPCC as a schools counsellor with Year 6 and secondary age pupils. From that I was lucky enough to be part of an initiative by the Welsh Government to set up counselling services across Wales for all secondary schools. I have also been employed by a multi agency service working alongside other professionals such as Educational Psychologists and family support workers. In addition to my role as a counsellor, I have delivered training to both adults and children as well as therapeutic groups to various ages. Working with parents has been necessary on occasion when working with younger children. I have also been involved in youth work, supporting children in care and young carers. Training has always been a key part of enhancing my approach and skills and I have accessed varied courses that are relevant to my role. During my employment, I have worked with a range of people in various contexts, and feel my values and beliefs contribute to working as holistically as I can to provide support to others who need it. 


Liz Stokes- Counsellor   I have well over 20 years’ experience of working in the counselling profession. Initially providing a service for West Yorkshire Police, following this I set up a counselling service for Better Health at Work a Local Authority project in Yorkshire.  Within my work for these two organisations I have worked with Adults, supporting them with a wide range of issues including, stress, anxiety, depression, trauma and grief and loss.  I created and delivered stress management, workshops with a focus on CBT and set up self-help groups for people to support them in managing, stress, anxiety and depression. Following my work with Adults and hearing many comments from them that they ‘wished that had received counselling years ago when they were at school’, I became interested in working with Children and Young People and completed a Degree Course at Glyndwr University which provided me with the skills and knowledge to work using creative methods (play, games, art) with children and young people.  I draw on my experience and training to enhance my person-centred approach to counselling and use integrative methods such as creative methods, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and practical problem-solving strategies to tailor the sessions to suit individual needs. I am a member of the BACP and have a BSc Degree in Counselling (Children and Young People); Advanced Diploma in Counselling and Group Work, Masters Degree in Human Resource Management, Diploma in Occupational Health, and a BA Degree in combined Psychology and Sociology.


We also have a number of sessional counsellors who work with this and are well qualified in their fields and work to BACP standards.


Our service


What makes us different


Our first few years


Our values and vision