THE Government has been criticised for incorrectly stopping people’s benefits in more than four in ten cases in south Essex.

Figures obtained by the Echo under the Freedom of Information Act show just over 40 per cent of all decisions to stop or dock someone’s jobseeker’s allowance in south Essex are overturned.

The Department for Work and Pensions released the figures for the past nine months – October 2012 to June 2013.

In that period, 1,970 people asked the department to reconsider its decision to dock their money.

Out of these, 800 were successful and the Department for Work and Pensions reinstated their stopped payments.

Southend Council’s Labour group leader, Ian Gilbert, said: “It’s something we’re aware of.

“I think it’s a very deliberate policy on the part of the Government to make life as difficult as possible for people on benefits.

“I’ve heard of people being sanctioned for the most spurious of reasons, like people being unable to get to their interviews in heavy snow storms.”

Pastor Victor Oladele, who helps to run Basildon Foodbank, which is based at The Place, in Northlands Pavement, Pitsea, said the figures did not surprise him.

He said: “The vast majority of people we help are those who have been affected by changes to benefits, and many of those have had it stopped or sanctioned.

“I don’t know how it works that well, but it seems like a draconian system.

I have heard of people who have missed an appointment because they have been ill or in hospital and their benefits are stopped and they don’t put them back on for weeks.”

The Department for Work and Pensions did not respond the Echo’s requests for comment.