Tory Iain Duncan Smith has accused a major food bank charity of "scaremongering", whilst attacking it messaging as being "political".
Having refused to meet the leaders of the Trussell Trust, the Work and Pensions Secretary denied claims that the controversial benefit reforms imposed by his government were responsible for the soaring number of people who rely weekly on emergency supplies delivered by food banks.
In a letter reported by the Observer, IDS also criticised the "political messaging of your organisation", which "despite claiming to be nonpartisan" had "repeatedly sought to link the growth in your network to welfare reform".
The minister continued: "I strongly refute this claim and would politely ask you to stop scaremongering in this way. "I understand that a feature of your business model must require you to continuously achieve publicity, but I'm concerned that you are now seeking to do this by making your political opposition to welfare reform overtly clear."
According to the Trust, more than 500,000 people, many children, have required emergency food from the charity, which runs 400 banks, since April. Due to the increasing demand for food supplies, the charity has repeatedly asked the Work and Pensions Secretary for a meeting, a request that has so far been denied.
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Lord Freud, the minister for welfare reform, also turned down a request for talks saying he was "unable to take up your offer of a meeting".
Trussell Trust chairman, Chris Mould, told the newspaper: "We are deeply disappointed, but we are as open as ever to meet ministers in the hope that perhaps the new year will bring a fresh approach to what could so easily have been a fruitful dialogue."
A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said: "The benefits system supports millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed and there is no robust evidence that welfare reforms are linked to increased use of food banks. In fact, our welfare reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities with the Universal Credit making three million households better off - the majority of these from the bottom two fifths of the income scale.
"The Trussell Trust itself says it is opening three new foodbanks every week, so it's not surprising more people are using them. They also agree that awareness has helped to explain their recent growth. The Government has taken action to help families with the cost of living, including increasing the tax-free personal allowance to £10,000 which will save a typical taxpayer over £700, freezing council tax for five years and freezing fuel duty."Suggest a correction