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The Gwella Approach evaluation

The overarching aim of ‘Gwella’ was to reduce the risk of vulnerable children and young people experiencing Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) or demonstrating Harmful Sexual Behaviour (HSB), through the development of a prevention model for use in social care, in order to improve the wellbeing of children and young people and respond to the Social Services and Wellbeing Act (2014) requirements. The interrelated project outcomes for Gwella were to build capacity in/provide an evidenced practice model for a multi-agency workforce working with children, young people and families so that they:

  • are equipped to identify and respond to childhood trauma and abuse at the earliest opportunity to reduce risks of CSE or HSB later in childhood or adolescence
  • can identify when referral to more specialist services is or is not appropriate.

In order to deliver on this, the respective commitments from each organisation were as follows:

  • Barnardo’s would develop and pilot an innovative prevention and early intervention approach to reduce the likelihood of young people becoming victims of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) or perpetrators of Harmful Sexual Behaviour (HSB).
  • Cardiff University would carry out academic research, and an evaluation of the pilot model, in order to create an early intervention toolkit for social care practitioners within statutory and preventative child and family services.

About the Gwella project and the evaluation

The Gwella project was a pilot for the Gwella approach – an intervention developed and run by Barnardo’s Cymru across North and South Wales. The intervention was designed to support children aged between 5 and 11 years old who were involved with social services and had experienced trauma and abuse, providing a trauma-informed system of supportive professionals around them, and improving their relationships with their primary carers. In total, 31 children and their parents and carers were supported through the project. The initial ‘year one’ of the project ran from July 2017 for 17 months, and additional monies were granted by Welsh Government to further fund the project until 31 March 2020.

The evaluation began at the beginning of the pilot through to the project end. It took the form of a qualitative organisational ‘process’ evaluation and an ‘outcome’ evaluation, with a strong focus on documenting the experiences of all those involved with the project, including the Gwella team, parents and carers, children, consultant specialists, and external professionals from social care and education. The research design utilised play-based creative methods to facilitate the involvement of children.

Research questions

1) What is the Gwella intervention, and how can it be delivered effectively?

2) What are the outcomes from the Gwella intervention for children and families, and what is the ‘added value’ of the project?

Other relevant resources

The project team

Principal investigator


Dr Sophie Hallett

Senior Lecturer