New project to map and evaluate the voluntary youth work sector for Wales
News published by the University of South Wales Centre for Criminology:
Dr Jenny Maher has been successful in obtaining ESF funding through the KESS programme for a Masters by Research student to work on Mapping and Evaluating the Voluntary Youth Work Sector for Wales in collaboration with The Council for Wales of Voluntary Youth Services (CWVYS).
The project, which runs from October 2021 to September 2022, addresses one of the core data limitations for the voluntary youth work sector in Wales by mapping and evaluating the sector. This is crucial as funding for youth services has been critically hit during austerity and delivery reduced and altered during the COVID-19 pandemic, while serious crimes and harms impacting youth (such as County Lines, ACES, homelessness, mental health, unemployment) have increased.
Dr Maher said: “Youth work formally and informally tackles many social harms, provides young people with opportunities and supports them through significant developments in their lives, and enables them to build positive relationships, skills and social capital. The Welsh voluntary youth work sector works with approximately 250,000 young people aged 11-25 years, with roughly 30,000 volunteers and 3,000 paid staff. Voluntary youth services provide essential support to young people and their communities’ health and wellbeing in Wales”
This empirical research will consolidate and build upon existing partner (CWVYS) projects, to deliver an intellectual audit of current voluntary youth work provision. This audit will address the intellectual challenges of: evaluating and mapping the Welsh voluntary youth work sector; identifying the gaps in provision; highlighting the value of the voluntary sector in tackling contemporary issues impacting young people; and supporting the development of a national youth information service.
This research is the basis upon which CWVYS will deliver an ‘intelligent audit’ of its member organisations and the wider voluntary youth work sector in Wales as part of the overall CWVYS work plan agreed with Welsh Government.
Paul Glaze, Chief Executive of CWVYS said: “We are very much looking forward to working on this KESS project, which will be a vital area of research for the voluntary youth work sector, providing a detailed perspective on youth work evaluation across Wales. We are absolutely delighted to welcome someone of Lizzy’s calibre to the team, are indebted to Dr Maher and Professor Williamson’s support and can’t wait to get going!”
Elizabeth Bacon, Masters by Research student
After graduating two years ago with a Criminology undergraduate degree from Birmingham City University, Lizzy went on to work for Sussex Police as an Early Intervention Youth Coordinator, running an early intervention project for young people in Sussex. As part of this role, she worked closely with families and young people as well as community organisations to provide the best possible service for young people who are starting to come to police attention.
From speaking to young people and their families, Lizzy has a keen understanding of the key drivers of youth criminal and harmful behaviour and the value of youth work in enhancing both young people’s lives and that of their families and communities. She is looking forward to enhancing understanding of and driving best practice in voluntary youth work to influence positive changes to the sector and the lives of young people.
Dr Jennifer Maher, supervisor
Dr Jenny Maher has extensive experience of undertaking collaborative research and knowledge transfer with external partners through funded research with the UN, European Commission, European Parliament, Scottish Government, DEFRA, South Wales Police and the RSPCA, and invitations to give evidence and speak at conferences (e.g. EFRA Parliament Committee and Croatian Presidency of the Council of European Union and Eurogroup for Animals). Since 2003, she has conducted empirical research and published widely on youth criminality and victimisation, with a specific focus on youth violence.
She previously consulted for the Gang Task and Finish Group for Safer Capital Partnership Cardiff (2011) and Knife Crime Group – Cardiff Youth Partnership (2010), and provided an evaluation of youth weapon use for the Valleys Race Equality Council [Valrec] & South Wales Police (2009). She has also collaborated with the RSPCA to evaluate youth violence against animals and their use in interpersonal violence (2010 & 2017). As Vice President of CWVYS she has provided guidance to the CWVYS executive committee on issues pertaining to youth delinquency and victimisation.
Professor Howard Williamson, co-supervisor
Professor Howard Williamson is Professor of European Youth Policy. His primary research interests are around youth policy, citizenship and social exclusion, and the role of youth work in the personal development and social integration of young people.
Over the past 30 years, he has reviewed youth policies in 21 European countries, written three volumes on ‘supporting young people in Europe’ and edited seven volumes of the History of Youth Work in Europe. He has worked closely on youth issues with the European Commission, Council of Europe, and UN. In Wales, he chaired the Wales Youth Work Partnership in the 1980s and was Vice-Chair of the Wales Youth Agency from 1991-2006. Since 2002, he has been trustee of Grassroots (Cardiff youth project), The European Alpbach Foundation and the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award for young people. His contributions to youth work and policy were recognised in his appointment to CBE in 2002 and CVO in 2017.