Food banks and red tape has left the North West facing financial hardship over the last decade, new data claims.
Figures show 69% of the North West have "limited access" to "financial support" with many people struggling to find and understand what financial solutions are available to them.
Greater Manchester Poverty Action surveyed 2,700 UK residents, and found more than two thirds of people living in the region thought financial support was limited.
A similar number had also struggled with financial issues within the past six years.
More than half (55%) of the people surveyed said they had applied for universal credit within the last decade, and of the 39% that were successful, many said they faced "diverts and delays".
The data also shows that more than half of those surveyed were wrongly sent to a food bank because of the lack of knowledge about the other financial options available to them.
As well as this, 44% of people said they would struggle to know where to seek out financial support from local authorities so one in five used the job centre, councils and helplines to get any access to cash benefits because the process was so unclear.
One in 10 gave up on the process of finding financial support because it was perceived to be too difficult or complicated with one respondent describing the process of finding financial support as "designed to make it impossible".
Another said they were left feeling "confused", "helpless" and "pushed to food banks".
Greater Manchester Poverty Action has now created the Money Advice Referral Tool to help people identify what support is available to them.
Graham Whitham, Chief Executive of Greater Manchester Poverty Action (GMPA), said: “We believe when tackling poverty and financial hardship in the UK we need to provide cash-first support to ensure we maximise household incomes.
"Food banks aren’t the solution; they are a sticking plaster for the problem and ultimately shouldn’t need to exist.
“The survey results back up what many foodbanks have told us. Too often agencies are sending people to foodbanks because they lack knowledge about the financial and other support available to people who are struggling with money.
“Whilst the benefit system is often not generous enough, £19 billion of benefits go unclaimed nationwide each year – the Money Advice Referral Tool streamlines the process and helps people to get the support they are entitled too.”
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