Appointment of CEO

The Board of KDYS is delighted to announce the appointment Ms. Berni Smyth as the new CEO of the organisation. Berni will join KDYS from Tusla and will take up her appointment on June 7th, 2022.

Berni comes from Galway. She has extensive experience of providing supports to children and families in the voluntary and community sector starting out in her career as a youth worker with Galway Youth Federation in the early 1990’s. She has won numerous awards for innovation and for her contribution to the sector – most recently receiving an Irish Woman of the Year Award in 2020 for public service.

Berni comes to KDYS with over 25 years experience of working with children and families in a leadership capacity. She has a specialist interest in the rights of minority ethnic children and intensive family support evidenced through her direct work in the community, her research and as an associate lecturer with the Child and Family Research Centre, NUI Galway. Her published research and models of best practice have been presented internationally. She has provided consultation and facilitation services to statutory and voluntary agencies in areas such as strategic planning, conflict resolution, child protection and welfare and youth participation.

For the past five years, Berni has worked with Tusla, the Child and Family Agency leading out on national and regional initiatives including the national Meitheal training programme for both the voluntary and community sector. In her most recent role, she was responsible for Service Experience and Feedback for the West region, project-managing several national programmes to promote learning from the experience of service users.

Berni has enhanced her leadership and governance skills through her voluntary contribution to a wide range of Boards and committees and as an expert advisor in the international arena. She was the Chairperson of the Irish Refugee Council (2016 – 2021) and previously led Macnas International Street Spectacle through a highly successful change management programme.

Berni is a qualified secondary school teacher, has a Masters in Family Support and most recently completed a PostGraduate Certificate in Conflict Resolution. She is delighted to be joining KDYS.

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The chat service is available between 4pm and 8pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays). The service is here to support 16 to 25 year olds, parents/guardians, and people who work with young people. If you want to chat to a Youth Information Worker during that time, start a conversation now. If you would like to leave a message outside of the hours of our chat service, we can come back to you by email the next time we’re online.

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We can help you with any questions you have, from education, employment, your rights and entitlements, social protection benefits, college grants, accommodation, and more. We can give you information, answer your questions, and provide you with a second opinion. (Please note that you can edit this as appropriate, but providing prompts increases the engagement of young people with the service.)

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If you tell us that you are under 18 and are being harmed, are at risk of being harmed, or have been harmed in the past while under 18, we must report this information to Tusla – the Child and Family Agency – and possibly the Gardaí. To make these reports, we need your full name, your age and the county you live in. If you choose not to share this information with us, we will be unable to make a report.

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Equine Therapy & Youth Work

Tralee UBU project in partnership with Tralee Equestrian Centre, have developed an Equine Therapy programme which has taken place since September 2021.  The program is primarily for young male members of the travelling community, aged 10-14.  Equine therapy includes a range of treatments that incorporate activities with horses to promote physical, social, and emotional health.

This 12 week programme was planned and designed to meet the needs of the young people participating. Young people were consulted and had input on the content of the programme to ensure the programme being delivered to them met the specific needs of the group. It is the overall aim that this program will evolve and develop further to meet the needs of young people in the community and it would continue to be delivered on an ongoing basis.

UBU staff members, Jake Kelly and Grace Boyle developed this initiative which focused on the needs being presented by the group members. The love and passion for horses held by the group members was apparent throughout the programme.

The expected outcomes of this initiative is that the young people will gain insight into their emotions and behaviour and develop a non-threatening more productive and positive way of interacting.  As the young people continue to communicate and work in harmony with the horses, the project workers expect that the young people will develop an increased sense of self-esteem improving their overall personal, social, and emotional health and wellbeing, as they progress through their teenage years and into adulthood.


UBU Your Place Your Space funded by Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration & Youth and administered by Kerry Education and Training Board (KETB) UBU programmes provide out of school supports to young people. These supports offer a wide range of quality activities, which are mainly community-based, that enable young people to overcome adverse circumstances and achieve their full potential by improving their personal and social developmental outcomes.