SECOS Project

What we do

barnardo's secos

Barnardo's SECOS Project was established following research conducted in 1998. In that year the project made contact with 70 young people and adults who were being sexually exploited

We identified that:

  • The average age for young people sexually exploited and becoming abused through sexual exploitation in Middlesbrough was between 12 and 13 years.
  • 97% had run away from home/local authority care
  • 86% had experienced child abuse
  • 77% reported that this was sexual abuse
  • 87% were involved in drug misuse
  • 53% engaged in self harming behaviour

The young people’s descriptions of how they entered into sexually exploitative relationships and how adults became involved in exploitation through prostitution was common in that they revealed a process of being groomed, introduced, guided and coerced by an abusing adult who was also often their drug dealer and/or boyfriend.

The project recognises the holistic needs of the young people coming to the project and from the research it was evident that the main areas for work were around:

  • Issues of abuse
  • Homelessness
  • Drug and alcohol use
  • Sexual health emotional and general well being
  • Missing from home
  • Child advocates to support young people through court process (ISVA)

SECOS works closely and collaboratively with LSCB’s and Health services across Tees Valley, including Statutory Safeguarding and Early Help services and Cleveland Police to provide support and protection for young people.

Services we offer

A day service for young people

This service includes one-to-one practical and therapeutic support, including child protection crisis intervention, and the provision of a safe place which includes showering, cooking and laundry facilities. We have close links with Sexual Health, drugs & alcohol, mental health and housing services and can support with signposting to these other agencies.

An outreach service

We deliver evening Outreach services as part of the street based teams and stay safe operations. The Outreach service provides an opportunity to engage vulnerable young people in  a structured programme of activities and a 12 week assessment about issues affecting them including sexual health, drug and alcohol misuse general health & wellbeing, and experiences of exploitation violence and abuse.

Creative Art, Music and activity groups

A series of day and evening group work facilities are held where a variety of activities are offered including, arts and crafts, music, film production and photography, looking at issue based activities such as sexual health, safe sex and relationships, bullying and coercion, drugs and alcohol awareness. The aim is to offer opportunities for success and a sense of achievement to help build self-esteem and raise awareness of issues that affect their lives.

Missing from Home

As part of the Tees wide VEMT (Vulnerable Exploited Missing and Trafficked) SECOS has developed an initiative to engage and protect missing from home young people. We work closely with Cleveland Police, Middlesbrough Social Care and Common Assessment Framework locality teams (CAF) and within the ‘Running and Missing From Home and Care Protocol’, which can be found here.

We arrange independent home visits to complete Pre/Full CAF assessment with families to identify issues and solutions for their child when a running away or missing from home episode has occurred and been reported to the Police.


The Barnardo’s Child and Young Person’s ISVA works with clients under 18 by providing intensive face to face outreach. The aim is to build a trusting relationship that ensures vulnerable witnesses are supported through the criminal justice process and beyond.

We are a victim focused advocacy service. We provide independent practical advice and emotional support to child victims of sexual violence. We work with children from them reporting crime, throughout the investigation and prosecution process, during trial and then we signpost to post trial support as necessary.

We work in partnership with SARC, Social Care, Police, Crown Prosecution Service, Courts and other partner agencies to ensure the best support to the victim. This is all done with as little knowledge of the alleged offence as possible to enable independence to be maintained and to ensure non contamination of evidence.

Training and education

Young people are often in a position where they are unable to tell someone about the exploitation that they are experiencing, or for other young people they do not perceive their exploitation as anything other than normal. By working with other professionals and young people themselves our 'Protecting Self and Keeping Safe' and Risky Biz educative packs are available to work alongside schools and youth services and can aid in the prevention, protection and identification of young people who are at risk or being sexually exploited. We currently deliver training on Child Sexual Exploitation and Child Trafficking to all LSCB’s across the Tees Locality, if you are interested in our service working alongside your team to raise the issue, please contact us.

Policy and protocol development

In order to respond effectively to young people being sexually exploited, policies and protocols have been developed locally that reiterate that these young people should be treated within Child Protection and that they are the victims of crime rather than the perpetrators of it. The experience and knowledge that SECOS has gained through the support of these young people has enabled the service to advise and support in the development of these policies both locally and nationally. It has also highlighted the need to keep these policies alive through constant revision and the training of professionals.

Why not find out more about us? Download our annual report here