Page last updated at 16:38 GMT, Sunday, 11 October 2009 17:38 UK

200 runaway cases at suicide home

Neve Lafferty (left) and Georgia Rowe
Neve Lafferty and Georgia Rowe leapt to their deaths from the Erskine Bridge

The care home attended by two girls who jumped to their deaths from a bridge reported more than 200 cases of youngsters absconding in the last year.

Neve Lafferty, 15, from Helensburgh, and Georgia Rowe, 14, from Hull, leapt from the Erskine Bridge last Sunday.

They had been living at The Good Shepherd care home for troubled youngsters in Bishopton, Renfrewshire, which is run by the Catholic Church.

The Care Commission confirmed 232 cases of absconding in the past year.

That is about five cases a week.

I think the issue is the quality of work which goes on in the centre, which is immensely valuable
Annabel Goldie
Tory leader and former trustee

The two girls were among nine live-in residents at the home and there are also 21 day girls who live in foster or other care homes.

The commission, which regulates the home, confirmed that some of the incidents reported to police in the 12 months before the teenagers died were repeat cases.

A spokesman said every care home it regulates across Scotland monitors the number of cases of absconding and informs the commission as part of twice yearly inspections.

He added that while the data was available for all the homes it regulates there was no Scotland-wide picture.

'Predictable consequences'

Conservative leader Annabel Goldie, who lives in Bishopton and was a former trustee at the centre, said: "Girls are going to abscond.

"That is just one of the predictable consequences of the challenged girls who go to the centre and the environment which the centre has to manage.

"I think the issue is the quality of work which goes on in the centre, which is immensely valuable, and which for many of these girls is for the first time giving them some sense of self-responsibility and self-discipline and preparing them, hopefully, to return to society and lead full and positive lives."

She said she was asked to present prizes during her time on the management board.

"The one that sticks with me most vividly is a young girl who was given a prize for managing not to run away for the whole of that term," she said.

"That was about rewarding achievement, a return to self-discipline and responsibility, and that's what I think we should recognise as being the virtues of a facility like the Good Shepherd Centre."

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