Investigation into double ‘suicide’ of care-home girls aged 17
A LOCAL authority has launched a review after the deaths of two teenage girls at a unit for vulnerable young people.
The two 17-year-olds, Catherine Bradley and Sammy Joe McGeachy, apparently took their own lives within weeks of each other at the Blue Triangle centre in Bonhill.
The unit, which provides supported accommodation to vulnerable young homeless people aged over 16, is run in partnership with West Dunbartonshire Council.
Local MSP Jackie Baillie has called for a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths, while Children in Scotland, which represents voluntary, statutory and professional organisations, and individuals working with children and young people, has questioned whether the 17-year-olds should have been placed in an adult care unit in the first place.
Ms Baillie said: “It is extraordinarily sad when someone dies, but it is absolutely tragic when two people, such young vulnerable women, take their own lives.
“They happened to be in the same supported accommodation. I understand they were friends with each other and they took their own lives within weeks of each other.
“I’m genuinely concerned about the circumstances that led up to this. I hope that both the council and the police will have a very full and thorough investigation, but I think we may need to be in the territory of a public inquiry, so we can understand the circumstances that led up to their deaths.”
Children in Scotland senior policy and parliamentary officer Marion Macleod said the UK differed from other European countries in that the cut-off age for many support services for young people was only 16.
She said: “Should someone of 17 be placed in adult services, or should they still be treated as a young person with the need for support and care that anyone at that age needs?
“Secondly, if they have problems, which they will almost inevitably have had to land them in the homeless system in the first place, were they properly assessed and was an appropriate package of support made available to them?
“And if there had been problems beforehand, whether or not they were in care, had they and their families received the appropriate help and support in the earlier stages that might have reduced the likelihood of them reaching the very difficult stage that they found themselves in?”
A spokeswoman for West Dunbartonshire Council said a formal review was under way.
She said: “The news of these deaths is deeply upsetting, and the council would like to extend its deepest sympathies to the families of these two young people. We have offered counselling and support to the relatives, and also to other young people living in this supported accommodation block.
“A formal review into these deaths has been launched, involving multi-agency partners, and it will be the decision of the procurator-fiscal whether a fatal accident inquiry is held.”
The tragedies follow the double suicide of Niamh Lafferty, 15, and Georgia Rowe, 14, at the Erskine Bridge in 2009. They were both residents at the Good Shepherd Open Unit in Bishopton.
An inquiry concluded earlier this year that their deaths could have been prevented if the centre had taken proper care of the two girls.
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