A SERVICE to help women change their lives by connecting with nature has been launched.

Connect is a free service for women who have had some involvement with the justice system and who need support with challenges such as substance use, mental health difficulties or low self-esteem, or feel isolated or have experienced domestic abuse.

The programme includes structured group work, coping strategies, advice on how to access community services, support, skills development, education, social contact and wellbeing.

Part of the project includes educational and wellbeing sessions with Countryside Ranger Leigh McCrum at Butterdean Woods, near Gladsmuir.

Alison Lynch, senior practitioner for justice services at East Lothian Council, said: “The Connect sessions with a Countryside Ranger help the women connect with nature and also learn new skills and the opportunity to improve their mental health.

“It’s one part of the programme which helps the women work towards changing their lives for the better and preventing them from reoffending.

“It addresses the issues that led to them breaking the law so they can make positive changes.”

According to a new poll, increasing numbers of people in Scotland believe that a sentence in the community is more effective at preventing people from reoffending than a short time in prison.

The findings were revealed in a new YouGov survey of more than 1,000 Scottish adults carried out on behalf of Community Justice Scotland.

Karyn McCluskey, chief executive of Community Justice Scotland, said: “The evidence shows how sentences in the community can prevent crime and help rehabilitation.

“Increasing numbers of the public are recognising the benefits not only to communities but also to the individuals serving sentences where they’re able to give something back.”