CAREERS: HOW I GOT HERE - Brian McGinnis, chairman of L'Arche UK

What was your first job?

Fresh from Cambridge History Tripos, I took the civil service exams and entered the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance as an assistant principal. For a significant part of my time in that training grade, I worked on war pensions.

What does your current role involve? I help those who live and work in one of eight L'Arche UK residential communities for people with learning disabilities. L'Arche is a very special 'prayer and action' partnership of core members with learning disabilities, assistants with whom they share their lives, and volunteers.

Roughly outline your career path. I moved from principal to assistant secretary to under secretary in the Department of Social Security and then the Department of Health. Throughout, I managed to concentrate on disability, learning disability and mental health.

What training or course has most enhanced your career? Apart from training as a voluntary youth worker, I have spent much more time giving training than receiving it.

What has been your greatest career achievement? The first tranche of incapacity, disability and carers' benefits and promoting parliamentary accountability for the implementation of the Learning Disability White Paper.

What is your advice to people starting out in the sector? Always remember that the customers pay your salary.

What is your biggest career regret? When I was working as a Mental Health Act commissioner, I was not able to persuade someone I visited that her life was worth living.

Are there any other charities you support financially or with your time?

I am on the L'Arche Lambeth committee, I work for Mencap nationally and belong to two local Mencap Societies. I also chair the Bromley Learning Disability Forum and a church training charity.

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