The chair of the Trussel Trust has said that the charity toned down its criticisms of the benefits system after getting treats that they could get shut down*.
Chris Mould was giving evidence to the Panel on the Independence of the Voluntary Sector when he said that the charity had been criticised by the government for raising awareness of the need for food banks.
He said that he had seen several examples of how “people in power do pretty inappropriate things at times to try and curb and curtail independence of a voluntary organisation when it proves to be inconvenient to them”.
Mould, who made it clear that the charity was not a campaigning organisation, told the panel that most of these examples had arisen in private conversations with those in power.
He said that in a face-to-face conversation in March 2013 with "someone in power", he was told that he must think more carefully otherwise “the government might try to shut you down”.
Mould said: “This was spoken in anger, but is the kind of dialogue that can occur. It exposes the way people think in the political world about their relationship with the voluntary sector when things are getting difficult. What can we do?”
The charity then took the decision to tone down its criticisms so that the government would maintain its contact. Mould said that this decision was a response of a “positive nature”.
He also spoke of another example of when the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions' office contacted him in 2011 in response to publication of the trust’s concerns about the benefits system.
Mr Mould said he received a phone call on his day off “from someone in the Secretary of State’s office which was basically to tell me that the boss was very angry with us because we were publicising the concerns we have over the rising number of people who were struggling as a consequence of delays and inefficiencies in the benefits system”.
*Adapted from this article, with very few changes...