A STUDENT has been keeping busy during the lockdown by helping the Government write guidance for young people during the pandemic.

Emma Beeden, a first year student at the University of Sussex, is part of a small team of volunteers making changes to official guidance so it is more accessible.

The 19-year-old, who is a member of the NHS youth forum, said: “We really wanted to make the guidance as clear as possible, but not patronising.

“The Government had originally tried to write a young person’s guide but they kept using the word ‘poorly’ for example, which we thought sounded babyish, so we changed it to ‘unwell’.

“We also added in things that are important for young people, including what to do if you’re unsafe at home, how to access sexual and mental healthcare, advice for young carers and information about volunteering.

“It’s been hard, especially as the rules have been changing and when the guidance has sometimes not made sense to adults.

“But people don’t want to break the rules, so it’s about making sure they understand.”

Emma, who has completed her first year studying childhood and youth studies, said she also wanted to help change opinions about young people being disrespectful of the rules and flouting lockdown.

She said: “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.”

Emma and the team of volunteers had their first call to discuss the guidance on Good Friday and have been involved in making changes to the advice on the Government website as the lockdown has eased.

Their work has been overseen and supported by staff at Public Health England before the amendments were sent on to government lawyers, the chief medical officer and Number 10.

The volunteers all have some experience of having been an NHS patient, which Emma says is important.

She is also 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.

Emma said: “I’ve been shielding since March because I had a kidney transplant in 2009, so I really wanted to share my experiences, but I also wanted to make sure that young people in similar positions are not forgotten.

“When people think of those who are vulnerable they think of the over seventies, but actually there are a lot of people under 30 who are shielding because of underlying health conditions.

“It’s been lovely to meet people with similar passions who are also shielding and our group has become such good friends.

“I’ve been more busy than ever, despite not being able to go out.”Emma’s passion to improve the lives of young disabled people and those with long-term health conditions saw her awarded a Diana Award last year.

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 her previous 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.”