Home Secretary Sajid Javid has come under fire this week for failing to offer a formal apology to survivors of child abuse who went to Home Office run schools.

According to website The London Economic, David Enright, a solicitor representing 22 survivors of abuse has written to the Home Secretary on several occasions asking for an apology for the abuse experienced by children at residential schools. The schools were set up to take in children who had committed minor misdemeanours, truancy, those who had found themselves in the care system, or children who were from poor backgrounds. Enright also asked the Home Office to attend hearings being held by the Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse.

No apology has been issued and the Home Office has confirmed that it won’t be attending sections of the inquiry’s work, telling Enright that as a representative of the Ministry of Justice was present, a Home Office representative was not necessary. The Home Office then sent a lawyer to the inquiry to read out a statement written by Sir Philip Rutnam, permanent secretary at the Home Office. Rutnam’s letter acknowledged that vulnerable people had been let down and that the government department was taking the IICSA’s investigations seriously.

Survivors were not impressed by the effort, calling the letter and the sentiments contained within it, hollow and too little too late.

David Enright and survivors of child abuse at several residential schools say the Home Office is to blame for the culture of abuse and the ongoing physical and emotional harm that took place in these schools, including forced labour and sexual assaults. Testimony from one teacher who taught at a residential school offered damning evidence which appeared to implicate the Home Office:

Now, this was not an aberration. It was a nationwide Home Office policy…The Home Office published reports about corporal punishment in approved schools … they analysed with charts and graphs how useful lashing was to stop boys from running away…Nobody asked why the boys were running away … This was state-approved and sanctioned child abuse and it was universally known of.

Further testimonies from survivors describe how paeophiles were able to use a state-sanctioned fear of violence to get away with sexually abusing children at Stanhope Castle in Co Durham, Forde Park in Devon, St Aidan’s in Cheshire and St Vincent’s in Merseyside.

Enright wants the Home Office to admit responsibility for the abuse and to apologise to survivors and victims who endured physical and emotional violence in the schools.