Bridge death teenagers’ care home in trouble following suicides

The suicide of two teenage girls who jumped to their deaths from the Erskine Bridge left a care home struggling to survive, an employment tribunal has been told.

Roisin McGoldrick, the chairman of the Good Shepherd Centre, claimed that the residential centre in Bishopton for troubled teenagers had to make staff redundant after the publicity of the case.

Neve Lafferty, 15, from Helensburgh, and her friend Georgia Rowe, 14, from Hull, fell from the bridge in October 2009. A fatal accident inquiry into their deaths is ongoing.

On Tuesday, the problems facing the centre in the wake of the tragedy were revealed at an employment tribunal in Glasgow.

Former employee Geraldine McDougall is claiming unfair dismissal after being made redundant because of the fall in numbers at the centre following the tragedy. Ms McGoldrick, who is also a lecturer at Strathclyde University, said of the deaths: “It was impossible for it not to have an impact on the staff and the young people.

“The numbers went down and we received very few referrals. Local authorities felt anxious placing young people in a unit where two people had died.”

In 2008 the Good Shepherd Centre was also hit by abuse allegations by a former pupil over the existence of a so-called punishment room but no evidence was uncovered. Ms McGoldrick added: “We were labouring against a massive tide of bad publicity.

“The allegations were later thrown out by the court as there was limited evidence. We were struggling to balance the books as we had fewer young people.

“The enrolment of young people was falling and increasing the deficit. There was a much reduced income. We were facing the grim prospect that we would have to close a service as it wasn’t financially viable to run a day unit as a stand alone unit.

“I was visibly upset that I’d have to make people redundant. We were in a difficult position unless something extraordinary happened we were in danger of closing.”

Ms McDougall, a former teacher at the centre, is claiming unfair dismissal against the board members of the Good Shepherd. The employment tribunal hearing, before employment judge Paul Cape, continues.