This week's Councillor Column is written by Graham Hardie, Liberal Democrat councillor for Helensburgh Central.

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At the full council meeting last week there was a report and presentation by NHS Highland’s director of public health, Professor Hugo van Woerden.

Within this presentation there was a new initiative discussed called “Compassionate Communities”, which helps promote and support the wellbeing of vulnerable people and those with health issues, in the wider community within Argyll and Bute.

It does this by encouraging neighbours, friends, family members etc to take a vested interested in this section of society. The UK is now officially and statistically the loneliness place to live in Europe, with over a third of UK adults now living alone, so an initiative like this is to be welcomed.

It provides those vulnerable groups (the elderly, the disabled, the mentally ill) with much needed access to social interaction, a key element in the wellbeing of any individual.

Recently, I was contacted by a constituent who had suffered from epilepsy most of his life and who expressed his sense of isolation within Helensburgh.

He asked me if I would help set up a group for residents in a similar situation – and along with his friend, who has mental health issues, we created “Connections”, which is friendly and engaging and meets at Costa in the town on a Monday morning at 10am.

Presently it has five members and I would encourage anyone who may be thinking of going along to give it a try.

Helensburgh has a plethora of organisations like Grey Matters, Alzheimer’s Scotland and Enable, to name but a few, who contribute to this idea of a “compassionate community”, and I think it especially important, as the festive season approaches, that the wider community engages more with those less fortunate than themselves.

A month ago I received a letter from a pupil at Hermitage Primary who was expressing his concerns about disability access in the town.

I wrote back to him to reassure him that we at the council do all we can to promote disability, whether it be in planning, health, education or parking.

Nevertheless, as a society we still have a long way to go to fully include all aspects of disability, whether it be political representation, fair access to benefits, positive outcomes within the job market, better access to facilities and the eradication of stigma.

However, I am confident that with initiatives like “Compassionate Communities” we as politicians are on the right track to achieving these goals.