SENSELESS, stupid, cruel, arbitrary – just a few of the descriptions given to the hated benefits sanctions regime. According to Iain Duncan Smith, the penalties are a last resort used only against welfare recipients who are not trying to find work, dodging interviews and missing appointments.

By this criteria, then, it is hard to understand why a claimant who has complied with the system and successfully found a job would ever be subject to such a punishment.

At best, those whose cash is stopped lose out for four weeks – the minimum period allowed.

However, this can be extended to as much as three years in some cases. Even the shortest sanction period costs recipients around £300 and the loss is said to be linked to the astronomical increase in food-bank use.

The Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest food bank network, supplied emergency rations for more than one million people in 425 locations over 2014-15.

It is a picture that would have been unthinkable ten years ago – the state pushing its own citizens into destitution.

Cut off from the welfare system that we all pay into, those living through sanctions are not unlike anyone else and the rate of overturned decisions – 58 per cent of cases are successful – illustrates the senselessness of their imposition.

The stupidity of the loophole we reveal today is perfectly illustrated in the case of a claimant who found employment – with the DWP, no less! – but was sanctioned because they had stopped looking for work while they were waiting to start their new job.

Just when you think Iain Duncan Smith’s reforms could not get more cruel, he goes and surprises us.

This loophole must be closed, and closed as soon as possible.

MP's anger at benefits axe for those set to begin new job