LONELINESS has been very much in the public eye in recent times and a Leyland man has received government recognition for his efforts to combat the problem.
Phil Burton, a former Royal Artillery Bombardier, attended a Downing Street reception to receive a Point of Light Award from POM, Theresa May. Phil received his award from Prime Minister Theresa May at a Downing Street reception marking the work of the Jo Cox Commission. Points of Light are outstanding individual volunteers – people who are making a change in their community. Every week day the Prime Minister recognises an inspirational volunteer with the Daily Point of Light award.
Last year, Phil set up the Veterans’ Café which meets regularly at the Roccoco Coffee Lounge on Chapel Brow, Leyland. The meetings brings fellow ex-servicemen and veterans together, enabling them to share experiences, memories and access support from appropriate charities and the NHS.
In a personal letter to Phil, Theresa May said: “By founding the ‘Veterans’ Café’, you have demonstrated an inspiring commitment to supporting the men and women who have risked their lives to protect our country. You should be tremendously proud of combatting social isolation by helping hundreds of your fellow veterans and their families to build new friendships and come together as a community.”
The café came about after Phil contacted South Ribble Borough Council last year to ask if it could help to coordinate veterans’ support services better.
Phil explained: “When people are in the Forces, there is a brotherhood that the military depends on to get the job done, but servicemen and women lose that when they leave the service and it can lead them to feel lonely – that’s when problems develop.
“There is support there, but many organisations act independently from one another, and the café brings it all together. I was absolutely delighted with how many people came along to begin with and it has progressed ever since. It is definitely something Leyland needs.”
Since the Veterans; Café was set up, Mr Burton has received support from several MPs, including South Ribble MP Seema Kennedy who accompanied him to the award meeting. BAE Systems have also stepped in to help with funding for the ongoing project.
One veteran, who was living with post-traumatic stress disorder, found help after attending the café. With no job and the prospect of homelessness, the stress was intense. But Phil contacted the relevant services who were then able to support the veteran in securing employment and a place to live. In the veteran’s own words: “Life could not be any better.”
Phil said: “When I first started the venture with the Veterans’ Café, I never thought it would grow into something this big. I originally wanted to set this up for the veterans, so they had a place to meet, and talk to like-minded people with the same day to day issues.
“This has now brought the veteran community together, and is allowing veterans of all ages to get the help where needed. This would never have been possible without the help of South Ribble Council, and the veterans that support the café on a fortnightly basis.”
Picture: Prime Minister Theresa May and Phil Burton with his Point of Light Award