“So … you’ve decided you’d like to be a Christies Care live-in carer”

Christies Care carer, Denise McCrory, has shared her story about being a live-in carer with us. From her initial decision to become a carer, deciding that Christies was the care company for her, the application process, preparing for and travelling to the UK, her initial few weeks through to finding the perfect client, Denise has told us all.

In Chapter 2: Applying & Travelling, Denise talks about the application process and, once accepted, preparing for and travelling to Christies in the UK. Note: Although Denise came to us from South Africa the process is mostly similar wherever you’re applying from.

“So you want to work in the UK?  Then heads up people!

You will not be able to work as a carer at Christies in the UK if you only have a South African passport.  Sad but true. You’ll need to be legally entitled to work in the UK.

Once you know you’re able to work in the UK it’s time to apply! Click Apply Now or any of the many “APPLY NOW” buttons on the website. This takes you to the application form. Just fill it in and submit it and the process begins.

The next step is a phone interview with the Christies Care recruitment team. They will contact you to set this up so make sure you keep your phone close. It’s a chance for them to get to know you and for you to ask any questions. Remember, you are being ‘interviewed’ from the moment you submit your online application form.

After the interview you’ll both know if being a Christies Carer is a good fit for you. If it is then it’s time for the not very exciting but essential part – compliance. This involves checking work history, references, documents, etc. For this stage you’ll want to:

  • Get your CV updated and I mean UPDATED.  Everything you ever did EVERY YEAR since you left school.  Work, Marriage, Divorce, Work, Baby 1, Maternity leave, Baby 2, Work, Marriage Divorce, Retrenched…. You get the gist!
  • Depending on where you are you may need to apply for your SAPS (South African Police) criminal check or your local equivalent – the recruitment team will let you know exactly what’s needed and help you.  You can do this at your local SA Police station but be warned it takes at least three months (cost varies) and sometimes doesn’t come at all.  There are some agencies that do this – costs more but a quicker service.  Do some online research in your area or ask the recruitment team/local agent for help to find them.
  • Gather together all your original documents (birth Certificate, marriage certificate, divorce papers (if any), passport, etc.)”

“Now, it’s just a matter of waiting for confirmation that you’ve been accepted and booked on to a training course. Make sure you check your emails regularly for feedback from Christies. If you’re applying from outside the UK, only book your ticket to the UK when the Christies offer is received.

What to do while you wait for the good news?  Start the really important thing…”


“So many things so little space!

Firstly, the United Kingdom is first world people! You can get most of your favourite brands here and there are any number of supermarkets and corner shops to buy a bottle of shampoo and a tube of toothpaste. And your anti-allergen Clinique makeup/face wash/blemish remover is in every Marks & Spencers.

So don’t pack a year’s worth of personal care items. Keep the space and weight for a good warm coat and a sensible pair of shoes. And I don’t mean Jimmy Choos!

The Weather (and yes it is a capital W because it is an important topic of conversation here in the UK) is very changeable here. A typical day might start:

0615 – oh my word look at that beautiful pink sky
0630 – shower
0635 – where did that cloud come from
0640 – get dressed
0645 – oh my word is that snow?!
0700 – play in snow
0715 – change frozen wet clothes
0730 – breakfast
0800 – Is that rain?
0810 – did that tree just blow over from the wind?
0815 – where did the clouds go?
0830 – is that the sun?
0845 – repeat

I kid you not!

But it does not rain every day, though it certainly rains a lot. It rarely snows but it also only gets to 30 degrees on maybe two days of the year (Editor’s note – last summer we went almost 3 months straight without rain). But hey, you are living-in with a client and when you are on your break you can SAFELY ride a train to the next village, walk on your own into town, take a bus to the local swimming pool, window shop, have a coffee and chat to the locals, especially in the villages – they love to know all about you!

But I digress. Packing – you’ll need:

  • A good suitcase – It will be lugged around with you everywhere so something hardy as it will take a beating on the busses and trains. And don’t bring all your worldly goods and chattels because your airline says you can have 2 x 23kg suitcases – ever tried lugging two 23kg suitcases whilst running to catch a train? Here’s some words of advice – don’t do it!
  • A good coat (it gets cold here)
  • A scarf (the wind can bite)
  • A lightweight rain coat (it rains here)
  • An Umbrella (it rains a lot here)
  • Takkies (sneakers for non-South Africans) – You do walk a lot here. On your breaks, to catch a train, from the train to your client, working with your client.
  • Socks – for the cold weather walks.
  • Comfortable waterproof shoes (suggest leather – those cool Nike takkies will get waterlogged very quickly and in the snow, your frozen toes will fall off!)
  • Sensible pyjamas (Victoria’s Secret will not cut it when you have a call in the night to assist a client to the commode).
  • A warm dressing gown (see above)
  • Slippers – Forget kitty heels. You will be up and down stairs and possibly using hoists to move your client from bed to chair. (Your feet should be covered/protected so wobbling around on your princess heels is a danger to you and your client. You won’t be much good to her with a broken ankle after tripping over the hoist!)
  • Boots – If you have boots, wear your boots over on the plane. But remember they take up quite a bit of packing space when you are not wearing them.
  • Work wear – Clothes you are comfortable in, but smart. Christies do not advocate uniforms (you are living with your client and if you take her out into town and you are wearing a uniform it sends a signal that she is vulnerable and unable to take care of herself, so it is not encouraged). I generally tend to wear navy blue or black lightweight slacks/pedal pushers and long-sleeve/short-sleeve T-shirts. Lightweight you ask? Yes, most clients have central heating and whilst it might be snowing outside, it could be like the Costa del Sol in their home. Also it is easier to layer up by adding another T-shirt or a cotton strap top to act as a vest.
  • Cardigan or lightweight jacket – to wear as a third layer if the central heating goes off.
  • Some carers wear leggings, others denim jeans (ideal for those cold days). Christies will supply disposable aprons and gloves to protect your clothes and hands when working at a client.
  • Every client has a washing machine. Possibly not a tumble drier…. But there is no need to bring 6 of everything. You will be able to wash and dry your clothes at your client.
  • An adaptor – SA to UK plugs. SA has round sockets. UK has square.
  • Leave your jewellery at home – necklaces, dangling earrings and solitaire set rings have to come off when working with your client. They can be lost or left behind at a client. Why take the chance?
  • A laptop/tablet/iPad – Christies will help set you up with access to their carer portal. In here you will find your new assignments and any changes to the existing Carer Best Practices. Wi-Fi is available just about everywhere and certainly at Christies Head Office during training so bring your laptop with. It keeps you in touch with friends and family at home as well as carers you will meet during your training.
  • Wi-Fi – Clients have Wi-Fi and it is generally part of your contract that you are given access to their Wi-Fi. But bring your mobile phone too. Pay as you Go airtime is cheaper than SA. Lots of deals with several different providers. I stopped at the 3-Three mobile shop at the airport and they helped me set up my SA iPhone so I could keep all my SA numbers on a UK sim.
  • Hairdryer – If you use one, bring your own . Most client’s will have but it is theirs, not yours.
  • Renew your driver’s licence – if it is due to expire within a year of leaving your home country. It has to be valid in order to be exchanged for a UK one.
  • Make sure your passport is valid for more than two years AT LEAST. Unless you are planning a long trip home within the first two years (passport renewal in SA 6-8 weeks) your passport renewal at the SA Consulate in London can take up to SIX MONTHS. Be warned people.

Of course, any unused packing space should be used to bring supplies of hard to find goodies (for SA carers NikNaks, GhostPops, Mrs Balls chutney [although to be fair you can get it here now], Black Cat peanut butter, Zambuk, Borstal and biltong – if you have no fear of border controls) – the Christies IT guys love SA biltong! And as you tie up with other South African carers, the goodies pipeline can enhance the carer experience!”

A few final tips

  • Flight wise I would recommend researching prices for arrival either at Heathrow (SA travellers) or Stansted (EU travellers) as both run a National Express bus service straight into Ipswich where a connecting train to Saxmundham can be caught.
  • British Airways is a direct flight from SA and is often the best price if you flag their website for deals.
  • Emirates Airlines is more comfortable but there is a changeover in Dubai which can run up to five hours depending on connections.
  • As the bus or train journey after the flight can be anything from 2.5 hours or more, direct flights are probably best.
  • The bus and train costs are about the same from Heathrow into Ipswich. But the beauty of the bus, although a little longer, is you are not lugging your suitcase or suitcases from platform to platform to get the connection from London Liverpool Street station to Ipswich. On the bus you get the connection from Heathrow Terminal 3 if I recall correctly (it is a short walk, well signposted from the arrivals area) and once the suitcases are on the bus that’s it till you hit Ipswich. A short walk (or taxi ride) to the station and the train connection to Saxmundham is easily accessible as it is on the first platform at the station.
  • A word of warning that the last train to Saxmundham is generally 8pm at night. Through the week the trains run every hour but on Sundays only every two hours if I remember properly.

Coming next:

In Chapter 3, Denise shares her experience of attending the Induction training and going to her first client.