Maurice McCann (Bookkeeper/Accountant )
Maurice McCann is a financial advisor with the insurance group LHW. The organisation provide professional advice on general insurance and financial services. Their main focus is commercial insurance, corporate or personal pensions and investment services.
Financial advisors are invaluable as volunteers to the community and voluntary sector. They are highly numerate and also well versed in accountancy processes, bookkeeping, financial legislation and not to mention insurance requirements.
Maurice volunteers with Dun Laoghaire Refugee Project (DRP). The project is wholly run by volunteers, its objective is to help young refugees and asylum seekers. Education and training are its main focus. The volunteers bring a range of skills to the organisation including education, teaching and career guidance experience. In recent years the number of hostels for asylum seekers had grown in Dublin but there has been a more recent trend to close these hostels down and transfer the residents throughout the country. This transfer process is proving to be quite disruptive particularly when the children are part way through a school year. A large number of the hostel residents are separated children (teenagers under 18 without parents/guardians). The DRP seeks to support these children and help them gain access to local schools. Once the children turn 18 and finish secondary school, the team maintain contact, providing much needed support to the children by providing career guidance and some modest funding to assist them with further education. The vision is that when asylum is eventually granted (or they are sent home) their literacy and education will be at a level where it will be possible for them to find work and live their lives as integrated members of society. When young people have no support, language or education they are highly vulnerable. The DRP is in existence since 2005 and for a small community and voluntary organisation run by a small number of very committed volunteers it is highly successful. The team is devoted, it supports approximately 200 young people through education and general support and it hosts a weekly drop in centre.
From a board of management’s perspective it is invaluable to have expertise and an understanding of the organisation’s overall financials. Maurice helps the DRP make best use of the generous donations which it receives. As with any organisation funded entirely by donations, it is very important to maintain tight control over administration expenses. On average, Maurice ensure 97% of all donations received by the DRP are spent directly assisting young people
Maurice acts as a volunteer bookkeeper and is also a member of the board of management. He performs most of the accountancy functions. The DRP is run entirely on donations and a key part of his role is to understand all the charity revenue rules, identify which donations may benefit from tax relief and process them accordingly. Maurice also ensures the accounts are properly managed with regard to recording all daily transactions e.g. receipts in, cheques out etc. On a monthly basis he collects the paperwork and balances the ledger against the organisation’s bank account using Microsoft excel spreadsheets. Typically this amounts to 10 hours work every month.
From a board of management’s perspective it is invaluable to have expertise and an understanding of the organisation’s overall financial status and and the key areas where their financial resources are needed. Maurice explains that in his role, generally he does not deal directly with the young children and his function is a back office support service. With his knowledge of budget allocations and available resources, he can provide assistance and help the front line volunteers make informed business decisions, so that the DRP make best use of the generous donations which it receives. It is always difficult for a voluntary organisation when decisions have to be made as to where resource can and cannot be provided but every charity must work within it’s own budget.
As with any organisation funded entirely by donations, it is very important to ensure that the greater majority of all donations goes directly to the young people which the DRP are trying to help. Every charity will have some need for administration services but they must maintain tight control over administration expenses. On average, 97% of all donations received by the DRP are spent directly assisting young people. Maurice continually monitors the spend and at the end of each year he prepares the accounts for an independent audit. This piece of work is outsourced to a registered auditor, in keeping with the high standards of financial management which are expected from a charity in Ireland. Once the financial statements come back from the auditor they are distributed to the charities commission, the revenue commissioners and any other interested parties. They are also posted on the DRP web site so that any member of the public can view them.
Maurice feels that much more needs to be done to change peoples’ perception of what it is really like to be a genuine asylum seeker or a refugee in Ireland. These people do not come here by choice. They are dislocated human beings who may have lost or been forcibly separated from their families. Many of them have witnessed family members being killed and this can have a devastating effect on a young person. They need empathy, compassion and support in settling into a new and different culture where they often know few people and are very frightened. They have basic human rights, such as food, shelter and education and need to feel that they are welcome in a strange country. Contrary to what many Irish people may think, very few of these young people have any entitlements to social welfare payments. The DRP have wonderful success stories where young and vulnerable people have overcome huge obstacles. Many of the children that have supported by the DRP have completed language classes, gone on to obtain good results in the Leaving Certificate and in some cases have even progressed to third level education. Ireland has become their home in the true sense of the word and they are delighted to be able to contribute back to a country where they were helped when they were really in need.
Maurice explains “while I do not directly interact with the children like the other volunteers and guidance professionals, I still feel that what I offer is invaluable and it gives me a great sense of satisfaction”.