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Becoming a Young People’s Sessional Worker

Sessional workers are a vital part of the team in Five Rivers’ residential children’s homes. In the following article, we’ll explore the role of sessional workers.

  • Learn what sessional workers do and if it could be a fit for you.
  • Discover the answers to common questions about sessional work.
  • Experience a day as a sessional worker at Avon House, as shared by a member of our team.
  • Find out about the benefits and challenges of the role.

What is a sessional worker?

Sessional workers have flexible terms of employment. Instead of a fixed schedule, they work flexible hours depending on demand and their availability.

For example, a sessional worker at a Five Rivers home will help the team when someone is sick or on vacation. Our sessional workers have flexible zero hour contracts with no fixed hours. The flexible work arrangements mean it is possible for sessional workers to work flexibly around another job or personal commitments.

Girl and sessional worker playing

What does a sessional worker do?

Here one of our team describes her role and why she chose to be a sessional worker:

“I hadn’t given a great deal of thought to sessional work before hearing some of the benefits associated with it. When I worked in HR, I knew they often recruited for the role and was also aware of the requirements, but I had never truly considered the possibility of becoming a sessional worker.

“When the home manager and my line manager suggested that I consider it, I was conscious that I didn’t want to make the decision lightly. If I was going to do it, I wanted to be able to offer the girls commitment like a real family. My mum said that I’d have to be 110% sure that it was something that I wanted to do.

“You’d think that exhaustively calculated decisions are the best ones, but sometimes it is the quick, instinctive ones that have the biggest impact. Having said that, coming to a decision about working in Avon on a sessional worker basis was not one that I could make lightly.

“I felt like a sister to the girls, and whilst this was a good start, the conversations that I’d had with both the home manager and my line manager indicated that if I were to take on work in the home, I’d have to start bridging the gap between sister and parent, friend and care worker.

“Whilst it’s helpful to feel a bond with the girls, boundaries are still so important. Having said that, the most important thing is the girls. I didn’t want to let them down as they deserve better than that, deserve to feel loved and cared for, as well as knowing that they are in a stable and loving home like Avon.

The challenges and rewards of sessional work 

“At Five Rivers’ turning children’s lives around is our mission, and before sessional work at Avon, I hadn’t given it a great deal of thought, but Avon put things into perspective for me.

“Avon is there to give the girls a chance to turn their lives around, to build a positive from a negative, and to learn the skills that they need to function independently when they leave Avon. Mental Health is something that is often thought about these days. Sessional support workers like myself aim to aid with mental health, using campaigns such as ‘Stamp out Stigma’.

“However, each week more articles are published about failings in this area. To put this into context:

  • Children in care are four times more likely than their peers to have a mental health difficulty.
  • Around 60% of looked-after children and young people have some level of mental health problem.

“When you think about mental health, it is often stated that it is important to not only treat the problem, but the person as well. Sessional staff are here to help build resilience, whilst giving therapeutic care and tools for life to minimise the chance of relapse in the future.”

Sessional childcare services

“At Avon, the team are dedicated to their child care services, and teaching the girls skills that will help them to be independent in the future. I observed the home manager give one of the girls a lesson on how to do her laundry, like a mother would do with her daughter, and both girls are going to be undertaking first aid courses so that they can be first aiders – skills that will be invaluable when they leave Avon and Five Rivers.

“Like mental health, residential child care comes with a lot of misconceptions, or as I’ve come to call them, “Tracy Beaker-isms”. These misconceptions are things like ‘All Children in Care are badly behaved’, when actually that isn’t necessarily true. When I told my sister that I’d been to Lazer Quest on shift, her response was ‘What? We never did that as children!’ My response was – ‘No, but we did other things’. It seems to me that people believe that a child in a children’s home shouldn’t be allowed to do things which other children would.

“When sessional workers take the girls out for activities, it gives them an opportunity to interact with the staff on a fun level. It allows the barriers to come down, if only for a short period, allowing bonds to grow, trust to be formed and memories to be made. Trust is vital in life, mental health and residential child care. A relationship without trust is like a car without fuel, you can stay in it as long as you want, but it won’t go anywhere.

“Graham Greene once said, ‘It is impossible to go through life without trust: that is to be imprisoned in the worst cell of all, oneself’. We all have to trust to move forward in our lives, to take that next step, to change our own situation, to make it better.”

boy and foster carer playing

Sessional Work FAQs

Are sessional workers employees?

The definition of sessional staff is that they are persons not employed under a contract of employment.

How does sessional staff pay work?

Sessional workers are paid for the total number of weeks they work, plus the number of annual leave weeks they are entitled to based on how much time they’ve worked to accrue leave.

sessional worker playing with children in a field

Become a sessional support worker at Five Rivers

“Five Rivers and Avon House lay the foundations to changing a girl’s situation, build resilience, bond with the team, make a connection, and encourages others to trust them. Being in care doesn’t have to define the girls, and I’m certain that Avon will be a positive time for them to look back fondly on.

“None of this though could be possible without the dedicated, committed and driven team at Avon. Just like a real family, the team don’t give up. When the going gets tough Avon takes the girls on a journey to a stable and loving home, which can also be said on my experience of sessional work at Avon House.”

If you have been motivated by this story and would like to pursue a life-changing role as a sessional worker,
enquire on our website today.

Enquire Today

Do you feel you have the energy and true commitment to make a positive difference to a child’s or young person’s life?

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