New project to map and evaluate the voluntary youth work sector for Wales

CWVYS youth work in Wales

CWVYS is working for a Wales where all young people are empowered by innovative, vibrant and sustainable voluntary youth work services

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.

The Council for Wales of Voluntary Youth Services


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

Lizzy Bacon, KESS Masters by Research student in Criminology

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.

Her research has provided the first comprehensive map of the VYWS sector in Wales while also analysing how the sector tackles contemporary issues impacting young people and considering sustainability and the challenges faced. Read her thesis here.


Dr Jenny Maher 
Professor Howard Williamson