FAMILIES could be left on the breadline after a helpline for two new tax credits was constantly engaged during the benefit's first week, says a Tadcaster single mum.

Sarah Goldsmith, 29, of York Road, Tadcaster, rang the Evening Press to complain about the situation after she tried for days to get through to the Inland Revenue number to discuss her unresolved claim.

She has a daughter, Jazmine, who is two-and-a half, and works 16 hours-a-week in a call centre, relying on the new benefits to pay for some of her childcare costs.

The Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit replaced the Children's Tax Credit and Working Families' Tax Credit on April 7.

Sarah said that she has been chasing her claim for six weeks and only received a letter last week to say she needed to supply more information.

"I sent my forms back last August. You would have thought that they would have been able to get a letter back before now," she said.

"It means that there are people out there who are needing that money desperately and they are not getting it.

"I am lucky. I can survive for a couple of months because I have got savings, but other people could be on the breadline."

Sarah says she was left on hold for an hour when she eventually got through on Sunday night and knows of other parents who have had similar experiences with the 0845 300 3900 number.

A spokeswoman for the Inland Revenue confirmed they had been having problems as claimants deluged the helpline with calls.

She said: "The new tax credit has been very popular and we regret that people have had problems getting through.

"You tend to get a rush of claims as the deadline approaches.

"An extra 700 operators have been brought in to deal with the calls and the Inland Revenue really are doing their utmost."

She added: "I can't comment on individuals but awards notices are going out all the time and the vast majority of people will be getting their claims.

"Others will certainly have their claims backdated."

If you have been having problems with the tax credit helpline, please contact our reporters on 01757 703580 or by email.

Updated: 08:58 Wednesday, April 16, 2003