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How this accountant uses her accountancy skills in cave rescue

Here we speak to Liz Maisey, Chair of Gloucestershire AAT branch about how she has used her accountancy skills in a number of voluntary roles.

Being an accountant means that you have a wealth of skills which are useful not just in your paid job, but in the community as well. This is particularly true for accountants who use their passion and knowledge for figures and their excellence in administration to help charities, voluntary organisations, schools and the community.

Using AAT as a basis for voluntary work

Liz Maisey is one volunteer who has used her AAT experience and her accountancy skills to work in a variety of voluntary roles – as treasurer of the Gloucestershire Cave Rescue Group (GCRG), chair of governors at a local primary school and chair of the AAT Gloucestershire branch. This is in addition to working as accountant at Wotton Auction Rooms and being mum to two small children, as well as running her own accountancy practice.

We caught up with Liz to ask her about her volunteering role and her AAT connections.

Why did you choose AAT and accountancy?

I qualified with AAT in 1992 and back in those days there was only the NVQ Level 4 qualification available. I left school after one year of A levels (it was not for me) and found a role at a local accountancy practice. I worked for them on a day release scheme, initially completing my BTEC Business and Finance, followed by a on- year AAT course. I was 17 and have worked in Accountancy my entire life!

I was at school in Cockermouth, Cumbria and I left school because I wanted to get out, earn money and train on the job. It was a close call between a Pharmacy position in the local hospital and the role I got in the Accountancy Practice (Gibbons & Co, Main Street, Cockermouth), but 33 years on I do not regret my choice.

Qualifying with AAT gave me a solid foundation to work in both practice and industry. It enabled me to work in industries ranging in size from multi-million turnover businesses, to micro businesses, both which face the same challenges albeit on different scales.

It also gave me professional credence and when moving jobs it gave me the confidence to apply for roles in the knowledge I had a supportive professional body behind me. Being involved with the Branch network has enabled me to meet lots of brilliant people, and given me opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

What is your current paid role?

I now work for Wotton Auction Rooms Ltd. We are an auction house based in Wotton under Edge and I have worked there since 2014. I took some time off when my children were small, but I couldn’t stay away for long. The owner and chief auctioneer is Philip Taubenheim, who regularly helps out on Antiques Roadshow. The Auction Rooms have also starred on Antiques Roadtrip and Salvage Hunters.

I deal with everything from staff management to property management, to IT support. This is what brings me the most joy, the varied nature of the job. I also have a small one client practice. I really enjoy the IT and new software coming out for MTD, or anything that involves analysing data and spreadsheets.

What are your volunteering roles?

I recently completed an eight-year term as a governor for the primary school that my children attend. For six of those years I was Chair and that involved many areas outside of my comfort zone, but it was a hugely rewarding role. I have also been on the AAT Gloucestershire Branch for 9 years, and Chair for the past five years.

Another volunteering role I hold is treasurer of the Gloucestershire Cave Rescue Group (GCRG). It was formed in 1962 by local cavers who recognised the need for cave rescue facilities in an area that was fast growing in popularity. The area has one of the most decorated caves in the country, Otter Hole Cave and the 10th longest cave in the UK, Wet Sink (Slaughter Stream cave) at 14km in length.

Cave Rescue in all parts of the country are organisations run by cavers, for cavers. We receive no funding from central Government and all our equipment has to be fundraised for. We are fortunate as an organisation to have a depot site located in Cinderford in The Forest of Dean, and we cover the Forest of Dean; the Wye Valley; the Cotswolds; and parts of the Thames Valley extending to the Reading area.

How did you get involved in cave rescue?

I married a caver and soon became involved when the previous treasurer retired from the post. That was 12 years ago and since I joined we have become Gift Aid registered, increased our fundraising and been involved in, thankfully few, rescues. Our rescues can range from something as small as a dog rescue or overdue caving party, right the way through to a rescue on a very large scale.

The nationally reported rescue in November 2021 involved 40 members of our team supporting the neighbouring group in South Wales with a major rescue that lasted 54 hours and involved cave rescue groups from across the country. Thankfully their skill and expertise managed to bring one badly injured caver back to the surface.

How have your AAT and accountancy skills helped as a volunteer?

With the GCRG we have to fundraise as we receive no money from the taxpayer. Fundraising has ranged from organising the auction of a large quantity of outdoor kit that belonged to a caver (who had sadly passed away) held at our depot site in Cinderford in the Forest of Dean, to producing themed calendars, involving many of our team, including children and family members (our 2023 one is out now).

We are fortunate to have a depot site and this gives us the ability to store our equipment, unlike some teams who keep it in members garages and sheds.

Why do you volunteer?

I like to feel I make a difference. I wanted to give back a bit and it is very satisfying to be able to help. For example, when I joined as treasurer for the GCRG I registered it for gift aid and helped the organisation claim back VAT for training and equipment because it is a charity. It helps them to have someone involved who has got an idea of how finances work.

We have managed to get a lot more money in as a result and that is very helpful because all the rescues are taken on at our expense. Cavers are a very close community and all the people who helped in the South Wales rescue were volunteers. Giving back something to the community – via the school governorship, AAT branch meeting or caving group – enables me to share my skills and make a difference.

Further reading:

Marianne Curphey is an award-winning financial writer and columnist, and author of the book How Money Works. She worked as City Editor at The Guardian, deputy editor of Guardian online, and has worked for The Times, Telegraph and BBC.

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