Cover Story

Darryl’s Den: focusing on ability

B2B Editor6 November 2014



Darryl’s Den is a small not-for-profit organisation locally based in Holt, ACT. Run by volunteers, the organisation was named after local man, Darryl Hulin, who suffered an Acquired Brain Injury in a motorcycle accident. Darryl’s Den has been operating for more than 10 years thanks to an initial donation from Darryl’s father, Reg Hulin. In his Letter of Support, Reg stated,”…unfortunately my injured son Darryl passed away before I’d met these great workers. I know my son’s last years would have been much happier had he been able to spend time with them.”

Darryl’s Den was created by Julie Grehan, who has worked for three decades to support people with disabilities, and Cheryle Parkes, a qualified therapist experienced in working with a wide range of conditions relating to children and adults with disabilities. Together, they set up Darryl’s Den as an activity centre for people with disabilities: a place where people could go to find out just how much they could achieve, rather than what they couldn’t. It provides a valuable opportunity for people who are often isolated to join in a range of activities that build self-esteem, confidence and a sense of purpose.

As a not-for-profit, community service organisation, Darryl’s Den only receives nominal attendance fees and relies on the support of donations and passionate people who give their time for free. The centre hosts classes in craftwork, woodwork, life skills, health and wellbeing services (which includes access to a gym and massage therapy), cooking, gardening and more. The centre is open three days per week and participants can attend for a half-day or a full day.

Cheryle Parkes said, “After starting with half a dozen members, Darryl’s Den has expanded to include between 50 and 60 members at any one time. We charge a nominal daily attendance fee to each participant that doesn’t quite cover the costs of the materials we use in our activities, so we are always looking for additional funding.

“There is nothing like this service anywhere else. We are completely focused on our clients and helping them to achieve things they never thought possible. They get to have a go at everything here; there are no limitations beyond the obvious safety regulations. If our clients normally have a carer, then they bring their carer with them who is responsible for them while they’re at Darryl’s Den.

“People with disabilities come to Darryl’s Den to be in an environment that is buzzing and positive. They learn new skills and make new friends and, most importantly, they have a lot of fun.”

The NDIS creates opportunities

Darryl’s Den has grown fast under the stewardship of Julie Grehan, Cheryle Parkes and other volunteers. The team had never used a business advisor in the past, but the advent of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) created funding opportunities that could not be ignored.

The NDIS funds what it terms ‘reasonable and necessary supports that help a participant to reach their goals, objectives and aspirations, and to undertake activities to enable the participant’s social and economic participation’.

Cheryle Parkes said, “We want to expand the services that Darryl’s Den provides. We’d ideally like to be open five days per week and even extend our opening hours each day. We’d also like to offer additional programs, outings and events but each of these things requires funding.

“For Darryl’s Den the NDIS provides an opportunity to secure that additional funding to help offer more services to our clients. However, in order to take advantage of the NDIS, we will need to make some significant changes to our systems and processes so that we can properly account for the work we’re doing and the people we’re doing it for.”

Darryl’s Den’s team has been managing its administration and accounting duties with the help of a bookkeeper and volunteers. The process has worked well in the past but will not be adequate for the requirements of the NDIS.

Trusted business advisor

To prepare for the NDIS, Darryl’s Den needed a trusted business advisor. Darryl’s Den applied for and received funding from the government to get professional assistance. The organisation chose to work with RSM Bird Cameron.

There are four key orders of business for RSM Bird Cameron. The first is to plan for the transition to the NDIS through a workshop and stakeholder consultation, including the physical preparation of an action plan. The second is to conduct a funding and cost analysis, developing forecast and modelling for potential NDIS revenue and associated costs to deliver services. Third, the team needs to conduct a financial management system and process review and redesign to make sure bookkeeping, invoicing and other procedures are compatible with NDIS requirements and to improve process efficiency. The fourth and final task is to develop organisational policies and procedures that will support Darryl’s Den as it grows.

Cheryle Parkes said, “The RSM Bird Cameron team could relate to us and they were down-to-earth people who understood very clearly what we were trying to achieve. We are not accountants and were quite worried about how to get the organisation ready for the NDIS, so it was a relief when RSM Bird Cameron came in to help us.”

RSM Bird Cameron identified some of the key challenges and opportunities for Darryl’s Den in their journey to become ready for the NDIS.

Tony Grieves, the principal consultant from RSM Bird Cameron, said, “There are quite a few challenges in getting ready for the NDIS but in reality, these are opportunities for Darryl’s Den. Previously the organisation received minimal funding. Now they will be able to access more funding and potentially expand their services to support more people, operate longer hours and offer a greater range of activities.”

“A key challenge is that the NDIS is a brand new scheme that completely changes how disability support is funded. We can help Darryl’s Den negotiate the ins and outs of government requirements and funding. We know that the NDIS will require particular types of reporting and processes in order to provide funding, so that gives Darryl’s Den an opportunity to refine their own systems and put measures in place to maximise the use of the funds they have.”

RSM Bird Cameron started by getting a sense of where Darryl’s Den currently sits and where management would like it to be in the next few years. The team then investigated how much funding would be required to achieve these goals, which could include bringing in paid staff members for certain roles.

Tony Grieves said, “The process has built a lot of clarity around what Darryl’s Den is doing. They’re already doing fantastic work but this gives everyone a full understanding of what they’ve achieved and how they can achieve more with the roll out of the NDIS.”

Improved financial management

RSM Bird Cameron has been reviewing Darryl’s Den’s current financial processes to see how they can be changed in preparation for the NDIS.

Billy Kang, Senior Manager – Business Advisory of RSM Bird Cameron said, “The NDIS program includes requirements for things like keeping track of the time spent on certain activities. Darryl’s Den will need to record time and put in place a process for invoicing for that time. The organisation also needs a better way to record and manage debtors, which is not something they’ve had to worry about in the past. Time capturing and billing can be laborious, especially when there are certain rules you must follow, so we will put in place a system to make it as easy as possible for Darryl’s Den to get NDIS payments.”

As systems become more important, Darryl’s Den will rely more on computers. The older office computer was not suitable, so RSM Bird Cameron sourced a replacement.

Tony Grieves said, “Through our business contacts and resources, we can sometimes find out about ways to help Darryl’s Den at minimal or even no cost. That was the case when it came time to replace their computer. We knew an organisation with excess computers that was more than willing to donate one to Darryl’s Den.

“RSM Bird Cameron is also working to find a Chartered Accountant to volunteer to join the board of Darryl’s Den as Treasurer. Darryl’s Den depends entirely on volunteers and donations so anything we can do to help will make a difference.”

Marketing is another key component of Darryl’s Den’s move to become ready for the NDIS. The more NDIS-eligible clients the organisation can attract, the more funding it can receive and the more activities it can offer. Although the organisation was aware that marketing would be beneficial, no one was certain how to go about it.

Cheryle Parkes said, “It’s important for people to understand the work we’re doing at Darryl’s Den and to understand the potential of what can be offered in the future. We want to help as many people as we can but of course we are limited by what we can achieve with the funds we have. RSM Bird Cameron has helped us understand how we can start raising awareness of what we do.

“Having a trusted advisor like RSM Bird Cameron on board to guide us through the NDIS preparation gives us peace of mind. We can’t do it without them and we know we’re in safe hands.”

Call for help

As an organisation led by volunteers, Darryl’s Den requires additional resources to implement changes and to deliver better services to disadvantaged people living in our community. If you share their passion and would like to donate money or time to Darryl’s Den, please contact Julie or Cheryle on 02 6156 2358.

Tel: (02) 6217 0300
Lvl 1, 103 – 105 Northbourne Avenue

With RSM Bird Cameron you really are… Connected for Success.