§ Ms Oona King
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, pursuant to the answer of 11 March 2002,Official Report, column 729W, how many housing benefit claimants are subject to non-dependent deductions; and 887W what percentage of that number are (a) registered disabled, (b) aged 60 and over, (c) in receipt of income support or JSA and (d) lone parents. 
§ Malcolm Wicks
The available information is in the table.
Housing Benefit cases in Great Britain to which non-dependant deductions have been applied—May 2000 Cases Cases with non-dependant deductions (number) 159,000 Of which:- Receiving a disability premium (percentage) 20 Aged 60 or over (percentage) 49 In receipt of Income Support or income-based Jobseeker's Allowance (percentage) 64 Lone parents (percentage) 16
1. The figures are based on a 1 per cent. sample and are subject to a degree of sampling variation.
2. The data refer to Housing Benefit recipients who may be a single person, a couple or a family. More than one benefit recipient can live in one property, for example two or more adults in a flat or house share.
3. Percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number and do not sum because Housing Benefit recipients can fall into more than one client group.
Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit Management Information System. Annual 1 per cent. sample, taken in May 2000.
§ Mr. Laurence Robertson
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps he is taking to speed up the processing of housing benefit applications; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Malcolm Wicks
[holding answer 5 March 2002]: Under Best Value, we have set a range of performance indicators for HB which are designed to ensure that authorities provide their communities with a faster, more accurate service which is more secure against fraud, and which provides value for money and takes account of the views and needs of clients. Authorities are required to set challenging local targets against the indicators and, from April 2002, will be set aspirational national targets for speed of processing.
On 21 March we published performance standards for the full range of HB administration. These address all aspects of administration including effective strategic management of the service; speed and accuracy of processing; modern accessible customer service; preventing and tackling fraud; working with landlords; and overpayments. Local authorities will be able to self-assess their performance against standards.
The HB Help Team is working in partnership with local authorities to support them in improving the administration of HB. We are already seeing real improvements in administration as a result of the Team's work and the ongoing programme of inspections by the Benefit Fraud Inspectorate. We also want to help more authorities deliver 888W a high standard of HB service by sharing good practice. We are developing a dedicated web-site to do so and we plan to make available shortly on CD a "toolkit" which the Help Team has developed.
§ Mr. Laurence Robertson
To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what the average time taken for local authorities to process housing benefit applications has been over the last three years; and if he will make a statement; 
(2) what the target time is for local authorities to process housing benefit applications; how many achieved that target in the last 12 months for which figures are available; and if he will make a statement. 
§ 5 Malcolm Wicks
[holding answerMarch 2002]: The first full year in which data was collected on the performance of local authorities against performance indicators was 2000–01. The average times for local authorities to process Housing Benefit applications in England and Scotland are in the tables.
England Average time for processing new claims 52 days Average time for processing notifications for changes of circumstances 17 days Percentage of renewal claims processed on time (ie by the end of the existing benefit period) 63 per cent.
Not all local authorities provided the data requested and some expressed doubt about the way their data had been collected. Therefore, the figures given are an average of the performance of the local authorities who responded.
Best Value and Audit Commission Performance Indicators for 2000–01.
Scotland Average time for processing new claims 48 days Average time for processing notifications for changes of circumstances 22 days Percentage of renewal claims processed on time (ie by the end of the existing benefit period) 75 per cent.
Three of the 32 local authorities in Scotland failed to provide the data requested and, in some cases, the appointed auditors expressed doubt as to the reliability of the data collected. Therefore, the figures given are an average of the performance of the local authorities who responded.
Accounts Commission "Performance Indicators 2000–01—Benefits, Finance and Corporate issues".
Best Value performance information for local authorities in Wales will be published very shortly by the Audit Commission.
At present there are no national target times for local authorities to process Housing Benefit applications. However, on 21 March we published national performance standards for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit administration. Local authorities will he able to assess their own performance, identify areas that need attention and work towards achieving the standards.889W
The performance standards for processing benefit claims are shown in the table.
Performance standards Average processing time for new housing benefit and council tax benefit claims 36 days Average processing time for housing benefit and council tax benefit changes of circumstances 9 days Percentage of renewal housing benefit and council tax benefit claims processed on time (ie by the end of the existing benefit period) 83 per cent.