WELFARE reform changes are beginning to be felt in Exeter by both its residents and front line staff at the city council.
Staff in the Customer Service Centre are having to deal with rising numbers of people who are finding it harder to balance their budgets.
Not only are some people finding it hard to cope with paying things like rent but staff are finding that they are guiding an additional 20 a week to the city's food bank.
Rob Hannaford, the city's lead councillor for housing and customer access, said: " There has been a big increase in people coming into the customer service centre seeking help and advice about these changes , and we have invested a lot of time and resources to help meet these service demands.
"Our staff have been working very hard with others such as the Job Centre and the Citizens' Advice Bureau to try and make sure that people are getting all the assistance that they are entitled to, budgeting properly, prioritising their debts, and looking at ways to secure full and part time work."
The city council has also been working with those faced with having to downsize to avoid increased payments.
The Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) Fund has been increased to give local authorities extra funds to help meet hardship caused by the changes.
Cllr Hannaford added: "For those customers with extra bedrooms but little or no income, moving house is an expensive challenge, from finding a deposit and one month's rent in advance, to removal costs.
"Therefore the council has been using DHP as a way of supporting people to move from unaffordable accommodation into that which can be sustained on their current income levels. Naturally the council has seen a sharp increase in applications from council and housing association tenants for downsizing.
"The council advertises all its one and two bed non-adapted homes as priorities for downsizing through Devon Home Choice, and all downsizing applicants are placed in Band B for High Needs. However analysis shows that a significant number needing to downsize are also struggling with rent arrears."
With more reforms to come, including the implementation of Universal Credit due to affect Devon in April 2014, Cllr Hannaford believes frontline staff are key in working proactively and providing support to individuals affected by the changes. He said: "Overall on all these changes and cutbacks it is very important that people don't just do nothing.
"Council tax has to be paid and we would urge people who find themselves in difficulties to come into our customer service centre in the Civic Centre in Paris Street and ask for assistance. We can assist people in a number of ways."