Stammering is a complex condition that occurs in 1% of the adult population across the world. It is estimated that there are 4,000 civil servants who stammer. Stammering is recognised as a disability under the Equality Act.
People who stammer may feel more anxious or nervous about speaking because of their stammer, but this is not the cause of their stammering. However, they often have qualities that employers rate highly, such as resilience, empathy, listening skills and creativity. Yet research says a huge stigma surrounds stammering. Discrimination is commonplace such as being passed over for jobs or promotions, as well as being made to feel their verbal contributions in meetings are not valued.
What causes stammering?
The cause of stammering is neurological but environmental and emotional factors can have an influence. Stammering can be audible or hidden, but both types can have an enormous effect on the individual’s personal and professional life. Most people develop stammering in early childhood as they learn to speak. However, some people develop a stammer in later life through a brain injury such as a stroke.
Research using brain imaging techniques (MRI) clearly shows that people who stammer have brain anatomy and function that is different from people who don’t stammer. Speech production is a hugely complex system of connections within the brain and in people who stammer, the connections are arranged in a slightly less efficient way. These differences only affect fluency of speech, but no other cognitive function. They have normal intelligence, competence and ability.
What support does the Civil Service offer?
The Civil Service is a member of the British Stammering Association's Employers Stammering Network (www.stammering.org/esn) and as such can access one-to-one coaching, line manager support and lunchtime learning sessions.
We have a website and several social media channels run by civil servants to challenge perceptions and provide support for colleagues who stammer, regardless of grade, department or length of service. You can join the conversation through the private Facebook group, Slack channel, Twitter or contact us to learn more about events and newsletter for those who don’t want to access social media.
How do I access support?
If you’d like to join or understand how the Civil Service Stammering Network can support you or a colleague, contact the Chair, Betony Kelly, (Betony.Kelly@bis.gov.uk) who will provide connections in the relevant department.