Scotland’s care system at its worst is a “manufacturing plant for homelessness” according to the head of Scotland’s independent Care Review.

Fiona Duncan told a conference in Glasgow that the system for looking after children who cannot live at home was a “perfect storm” which safeguarded their welfare but not their sense of wellbeing.

“It is not unusual to have numerous placements, which makes it incredibly difficult for them to form attachments to people or places,” she said.

Often the homes care leavers are given are poor quality, but most do not have enough money to improve them, leaving many feeling lonely and unsafe, she added. Meanwhile they often leave the care system ill-equipped for adult life.

“Those with the greatest needs leave first. But seldom do those who leave consider themselves ready to live outside the system. “Seldom do they feel they have the life skills such as cooking and budgeting they need. Seldom to they feel safe living on their own.”

“Lots and lots of them leave the telly on overnight to emulate the noise they are used to”, she said. “Once you leave the system there is no way back. At its worst, the care system is a manufacturing plant for homelessness.”

Ms Duncan is half way through a three year independent review of the care system, which was commissioned by the Scottish Government. She the system was not fundamentally broken and change was possible.

“We need to reduce the number of placements children have so that they are in places that feel like home sooner. We need to support them when they leave. We have to start thinking of people as people.”

Recounting the story of one young woman who had been given a flat which had been done up at a cost of £10,000, she said: “A social worker decided to spend that money. It was a great investment. She has somewhere beautiful to live, she is hoping to get a job, she has got a great chance in life.”

Because of the long term costs if placements go wrong, such spending is prudent, Ms Duncan claimed. “We need to be able to show the accountants this investment is a preventative spend. It turns a red line in your budget into a black line.”

She was speaking at a conference in Glasgow which heard shocking figures about the health risks of homelessness.

Official figures show that people who have been homeless are twice as likely to die as people in the most deprived areas of Scotland and more than five times more likely than people living in wealthy areas, according to figures published by the Scottish Government.

In a study of 1.3 million Scots covering 15 years between 2001 and 2016, of the 23,718 people who died, 60 per cent had experienced homelessness.

The event, held by Glasgow Homeless Network, heard that homeless people had a much higher rate of admission to A&E, drug and alcohol use and mental health problems than the general population. However more than half of homeless people in the study (51 per cent) had no evidence of health conditions relating to drugs, alcohol or mental health.

The figures have led to calls for renewed efforts to prevent families and individuals becoming homeless. Dr Andrew Waugh, co-author of the report Health and Homelessness in Scotland, said: “Men aged 36-40 who have been homeless are 20 times more likely to die than the most well off.”

Figures show that the health impact of homelessness begins up to two years before someone first registers as homeless, he added.

The figures show homeless people make more use of drug treatment services, are more likely to be admitted to hospital with mental health issues, and attend accident and emergency services and acute hospital admissions more frequently, he said.

Yesterday First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced £6.5million of funding to support the Housing First programme run by homelessness charity Social Bite. She said the money would support more than 800 people with complex needs over the next three years, recognising a safe and secure home is the best base for recovery.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Many people who become homeless or end up sleeping rough have complex needs that require specialist support as well as a house. Traditionally the approach has been to provide support and get a person ‘tenancy ready’ before giving them a house. But that can mean they spend long periods of time in temporary accommodation, making it harder for them to address the other issues they face.

“We want to change that, which is why we are working with Social Bite and others to invest in and expand Housing First to make it a key element of all homelessness services in Scotland.”

Josh Littlejohn of Social Bite said: “It is our firm belief that Scotland can be a country where no-one has to be homeless.”