What is stammering?

Stammering is a complex condition that occurs in 1% of the adult population across the world. Based on this, we estimate that 4,000 civil servants 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. There is a huge stigma surrounds stammering as people inadvertently put a premium on smooth or ‘fluent’ speech. 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?

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. People who stammer have normal intelligence, competence and ability.

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.

What support does the Civil Service offer?

The Civil Service is a member of the British Stammering Association’s Employers Stammering Network and can access one-to-one coaching, line manager support and lunchtime learning sessions.

This website and linked social media groups are designed to be a safe place to share experiences, provide support and share information. If you’d like to join the Facebook group simply send a membership request or join our Slack channel here. We’ll check you’ve got a UK Civil Service gov.uk email address before we add you.

How can I access support?

If you’d like to learn more about how to support a colleague who stammers, contact the Civil Service Stammering Network or use this helpful guide from the Employers Stammering Network.