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University of Sussex student helps to make lockdown rules clear to her peers

First year student Emma Beeden has been working to help make lockdown rules clear to her peers

A University of Sussex student has been helping the nation get to grips with lockdown restrictions by rewriting Government guidelines for children and young people.

First year Childhood and Youth Studies student Emma Beeden is among a small number of young people who have been tasked by public health officials to make the government’s coronavirus guidelines more relatable to her peers.

The 19-year-old has been working through the lockdown to help explain social distancing and shielding to youngsters aged 11 to 25 years old.

Emma, from Oakley in Bedfordshire, said: “We really wanted to make the guidance as clear as possible so that young people know exactly how to follow the rules. We started by looking at the general guidance and then adapting it for young people by adding and removing different parts.

“We realised how important it was to have people with personal experience involved in the guidance and that is part of the reason I think our guidance is so special, clear and resonates with people.

“We were also able to add in things that are important for young people to know including what to do if you are unsafe at home, travelling, play, how to access health care, sexual and mental health, young carers and social action/volunteering.

“Some people have said what we produced is clearer than the general guidance which I think really shows how important it is for young people with lived experience to be involved.”

Emma is an adviser to the NHS, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and Great Ormond Street Hospital on making health services better for young people.

Her passion to improve the lives of young disabled people and those with long-term health conditions saw her awarded a Diana Award last year.

For the past two years, she has also been volunteering with the NHS Youth Forum and enthusiastically answered the forum’s call for people interested in joining a project concerning young people and coronavirus.

Emma has been working in a group of six similarly-aged volunteers making changes to Government documents ranging adding in a section on young carers to changing individual words to make them more relatable to young people.

Their work was overseen and supported by staff at Public Health England and the #iWill campaign before their amendments were sent on to government lawyers, the chief medical officer and Number 10 for their approval.

Emma has also been heavily involved in supporting activism for young people’s rights social media by helping to create the #YoungPeopleMatter project, which highlights the impact the pandemic is having on young people, as well as signing and sharing the #PowerOfYouth open letter calling on the government to allow under-18s to ask questions at the daily briefings.

Emma said: “I am currently shielding because I had a kidney transplant in 2009 so really wanted to share my experiences but I also wanted to make sure that young people in similar positions are not forgotten and that people are aware that it is not just older people staying at home.

“What I’ve taken from my first year on the course at Sussex which has helped in this project is really valuing the contributions of young people.

“There is a discourse in parts of the media that young people are acting selfishly by going out and showing a total disregard for the rules but in reality for the vast majority this is not the case. There are young people volunteering, working on the front line, working in shops and staying home not only to protect themselves but those around them.

“I also drew on what I’ve learnt at university about children’s rights and participation. It is so important that young people are involved in conversations that affect them especially if they have other factors which make them even more likely to be ignored or forgotten such as being disabled.”

Dr Jacqui Shepherd, Lecturer in Education at the University of Sussex, said she was extremely proud of the work Emma was doing on the government guidelines but also more broadly on campaigning to ensure disabled voices are heard.

She said: "Emma impressed me from my first meeting with her at an open day as she seemed really enthusiastic about the BA Childhood and Youth course, partly because of the module we had developed on disability.

"Emma is an excellent student but it's also everything she does outside of the university for the NHS and in promoting the rights of disabled children and young people that's so impressive. She is an inspiration not only to her fellow students on the course but also her tutors."

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By: Neil Vowles
Last updated: Thursday, 11 June 2020

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