Head of Youth Service retires after 23 years

GILBERT Bell, the head of the North Eastern Board's Youth Service, has retired after 23 years service.

At a farewell dinner at Corr's Corner in December his deputy Jim Lewis lauded Mr Bell for his knowledge, vision and great humanity.

He likened the wealth of knowledge of the youth service Gilbert had to the in-depth "knowledge" London taxi drivers had of the capital's streets.

His vision for the service had encompassed over the years the development of ICT in youth clubs, work in schools, progress in outdoor education and the development of youth centres and youth workers across the North East.

Describing Mr Bell's humanity, Mr Lewis said he was always prepared to listen to people, show understanding for their problems and demonstrate flexibility in helping them to overcome them.

Mr Bell, who in all spent 38 years with the Board, was responsible for several important innovations in the Youth Work field locally.

He developed pioneering methods of working with young people to aid their personal and social development. A great supporter of voluntary youth organisations, he instigated paying their block grant up-front to assist with the purchase of equipment.

A leading light in the five Board Curriculum Development Unit, which he chaired, he helped develop the Youth Service Curriculum and a Model of Effective Practice. He also instigated the restructuring of the Board's Youth department, producing a flatter management structure and was responsible for full-time youth workers' move from being youth centre managers to a role of working directly with young people wherever they might congregate. The workers were encouraged to devise programmes based on the opinions and needs of those young people and aimed at building their self-esteem and confidence.

Mr Bell was proactive in fostering links with formal education with youth workers being involved directly in schools as part of behavioural and counselling teams, introducing young people to the residential centre experience or involving them in the Duke of Edinburgh scheme.