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  1. ITV Report

Veterans' cafe combating ex-service personnel loneliness

After the success of our Inspiring Britain series in 2017, ITV News has decided there is always time for good news - so we are continuing to bring you stories about people making a difference and inspiring others in their communities and beyond.

Adjusting to civilian life can be hard for many members of the armed forces returning from war.

Former service personnel often feel they have lost a sense of belonging and comradeship and as a result can be social isolated and lonely in their post-conflict life.

Many also find it difficult to talk about the experiences they have had in combat.

But a former solider has taken it upon himself to play his part in combating loneliness.

Phil Burton has opened a veterans' cafe in South Ribble, Lancashire, where former military personnel can gather to talk to like-minded former colleagues and find the friendship and support they need.

The cafe has been so successful that Phil was recognised for his work in combating social isolation with an award from Prime Minister Theresa May earlier this year.

Phil Burton was recognised for his work with an award for combating social isolation. Credit: ITV News

Phil says more needs to be done to help the military community.

He set up the cafe because he says they simply do not exist, and thinks spaces like this help ease veterans back into post-conflict, providing emotional and practical support.

The cafe opens twice a month, but Mr Burton is hoping to make it a permanent fixture.

He told ITV News: "I think the need to help veterans has now become more apparent.

"If I can get some more cafes up and running again it's just going to help the right people and get them where they want to be in life."

The cafe provides a social space for former military personnel to share experiences. Credit: ITV News

One of those he has helped is Jay Johnson, now a talented and successful carpenter, who admits he struggled after leaving the Royal Artillery.

He told ITV News: "There's a lot of stuff that a lot of service people won't talk to, with doctors or they won't seek help with doctors because they don't want to talk to people.

"Things like the Leyland Veterans' cafe is the perfect place.

"You can go there, it can be a complete stranger and you can have one of the best conversations that you've had and you can leave that cafe if you were feeling down on top of the world again."

The veterans look set to be returning to the cafe for a coffee and chat for a long time to come.

The cafe can leave former military personnel feeling 'on top of the world'. Credit: ITV News