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Why we do what we do

We want a world where having a stammer has no impact on your ambitions. 

But for the 8% of children in the UK who have a stammer, it can have a very real effect on their current and long-term mental, emotional and social well-being. 

Everyday tasks that many of us take for granted – things like answering a question, talking with friends, ordering a coffee, or saying your own name – can bring with them feelings of stress, frustration, anxiety, and embarrassment. 

This has to change.

Our belief is that every child should be who they want to be. Children and young people who stammer, together with their families, should be free to choose how they want to communicate. This means being able to access effective and timely support – whether that is therapy, trusted information, or helpful guidance – for those who want it.

At the same time, no one should ever feel ashamed, held back or under pressure to hide their stammer. That’s why we also work to transform attitudes and bring about lasting social change.

Our history

Originally named the Association for Research into Stammering in Childhood, our charity was founded by businessman, Travers Reid, who stammered himself, and specialist speech and language therapist, Dr Lena Rustin, in 1989.  

Action for Stammering Children was instrumental in the establishment of the Michael Palin Centre for Stammering Children. In 2012, the charity purchased the Pine Street Building in Clerkenwell, securing a permanent premises for the Michael Palin Centre. The charity went on to fund a major extension in 2014, adding the Lena Rustin Wing to provide more space for clinical consultations, therapy and teaching.  As part of our charitable contribution, the building continues to be home to the specialist stammering service run by Whittington Health NHS Trust. The charity is also based in the Pine Street building. 

Now in our third decade, Action for Stammering Children maintains a close association with our long-standing partner, the Michael Palin Centre, while also establishing new partnerships, which enable us to offer a broad variety of projects and services to children who stammer across the UK. Take a look at our Projects and Research & Policy Pages for more information about our existing and future partnership projects.


Our team

  • Dr Ria Bernard CEO

    Ria took over as Chief Executive of Action for Stammering Children in June 2022. She is a qualified Speech & Language Therapist with a clinical and research background in stammering.

    In 2023, Ria was awarded her PhD in Psychology by University College London (UCL). Her doctoral research focused on the association between stammering and risk of adverse mental health in children.

  • Joe Hipgrave Trusts and Foundations Manager

    Joe joined the Charity in March 2017 to oversee our Trust and Foundations fundraising.  He has a huge range of experience having previously worked for Prostate Cancer UK, Morley College and the Family Holiday Association.

Board of trustees

  • Dame Jane Roberts Chair

    Jane is Research Fellow in Public Leadership at The Open University Business School.

    Professionally, Jane is a medical doctor and is an Honorary Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist in London with experience of senior healthcare management in the NHS.

    Jane was Leader of the London Borough of Camden Council in the early 2000’s following which she has served in a range of non-executive roles including as Chair of the Councillors Commission for the Department of Communities and Local Government, Chair of Parenting UK, a member of the Ofsted board, Chair of New Local Government Network and currently Chair of the charity, Living Streets. She is a member of the Independent Remuneration Board of the Senedd, and of the Advisory Group of the Welsh Centre for Public Policy. She was appointed DBE 2004.

    Jane has published a number of academic articles in paediatrics, psychiatry and politics. She co-edited ‘The Politics of Attachment’ (1996) with Sebastian Kraemer and is the author of ‘Losing Political Office’ (2017).

  • David Broom Treasurer

    David became Treasurer of the Charity in April 2014, and has had first-hand experience of the work of the Charity having attended the intensive therapy course at the Michael Palin Centre in 2012 with his son Thomas.  He is a chartered accountant and currently the head of internal audit at a credit rating agency. He has worked in a number of global companies across the financial services sector.

  • Dr Vicky Slonims

    Vicky is Senior Consultant Speech and language therapist at the Children’s Neurosciences Centre at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and Honorary Senior Lecturer at Kings College London, and leads the multi-disciplinary service for children with complex neurodevelopmental disorders.  She has served on several committees including the Research Autism: Scientific and Advisory Board (NAS), and is also clinical advisor to the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman.

  • Richard Murray

    Richard was appointed as Chief Executive of The King’s Fund in January 2019, after five years as the Director of Policy. The King’s Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and care and combines research, policy analysis, leadership development and provides a place for people to meet and discuss the big health and care issues.

    Before joining the Fund in January 2014, Richard was chief analyst at NHS England and previously held a number of roles at the Department of Health, including director of strategy, director of financial planning and chief economist.

    Richard initially trained as an economist and spent five years in academia before joining the Department of Health as an economic adviser. Following this he spent four years as a health care specialist at McKinsey & Co before returning to the Department of Health.

  • Anya Paul

    Anya is a digital marketing and technology leader who has spent 25 years working for global companies like Google, WPP and Yahoo!, across three continents.

    Having stammered since she was 6, she was offered an adult place at the Michael Palin Centre (MPC) 10 years ago – since then she has co-authored a chapter of a book on the use of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in adults who stammer, with her speech therapist at MPC.
    For a number of years, she has served as a mentor in the annual summer intensive course at MPC for teens and young adults, and has also participated in their interview practice sessions.

    She holds a postgraduate certification in Psychology, and has taken part in several neurological research studies into stammering at academic institutions in both the UK and the US.

  • Joe Allen

    Joe has been an active volunteer with our charity since he came onboard to launch our Youth Panel in 2015. Since then, Joe has been a familiar face and has provided excellent input and direction to our charity.

    In 2022, Joe became a trustee alongside fellow Youth Panel alumni Zain Ghani. We look forward to working with Joe at this new level through our nationwide projects.

  • Zain Ghani

    Zain has been a volunteer of ASC since 2015 and has been involved in the Youth Panel and being the Volunteer Programme Lead for the Northern Youth Panel. Zain has had a stammer from a young age, and has achieved many successes, of which one highlight was being selected as a cast member on the Chanel 5 Star Documentary “My Extreme Stammer and Me”. Zain plays a proactive role in stammering awareness in everything he does and with everyone he encounters.

    Zain currently has an undergraduate degree in Sports, Physical Activity & Health, has been a circus-style entertainer for over 10 years and currently works as a Staying Well worker in Calderdale – working to improve health and wellbeing of communities as well as being responsible for micro-commissioning funds and supporting adults on a 1:1 basis to reduce isolation and loneliness.

  • Archna Rahulan

    Archna has worked in the NHS for 23 years with many years as Director of Performance in East London. She is now Director of Specialised Services and Cancer driving the agenda on early cancer diagnosis, treatment and personalised cancer care alongside clinical transformation of specialised services and the long term condition and prevention agendas. 

    Archna trained as a pharmacist at Kings College London and has previously held a Non Executive Director position at Accelerate CIC transforming wound and lymphoedema care for east London residents.

    She was also a member of the BBC London region Audience panel for 4 years .

    Family members with a stammer have drawn Archna to ASC where she is passionate to learn more and contribute to improving the lives of children with a stammer.  

  • Felicity Baker

    Felicity works as a Senior Producer on the BBC’s News at One, Six and Ten. She has had a stammer since childhood and stepped out in front of the camera for the first time to front a TV news piece which was broadcast on the Six and Ten o’clock news in January 2021.

    This led to her presenting a documentary called ‘I Can’t Say My Name’ which looked at the realities of life with a stammer, and was broadcast on prime time BBC One in March 2021.

    Since then, she helped to set up a Stammering Support Network at the BBC, and has continued to speak publicly about her experience, encouraging others to be more open about their speech.

  • Stephen McAteer

    Stephen is an accomplished management professional with extensive international clinical, business and leadership expertise along the continuum of health and social care.

    With twenty years of progressive healthcare experience, Stephen has successfully accepted positions of increasing responsibility enabling him to be become a capable strategic and operational leader with the ability to motivate teams to be successful.

    He is a business development, change management and stakeholder engagement expert with a thorough understanding of the challenges and complexities of high quality, direct patient care with a system view of the healthcare environment at a frontline, regional and international level. 

  • Natalie Carver

    After completing a degree in Geography, and a Masters in Overseas Development I worked for 8 years in financial services. 

    In 2005 I followed my passion and started working in the charity sector and now own one of the UK’s largest fundraising agencies, working with charities across the UK.  

    I have a son, Elliott, who stammers and we became involved with ASC as part of an awareness raising film in 2022.

Vice Presidents

  • Sir Michael Palin

    Michael Palin has been involved with Action for Stammering Children since 1993 when he agreed to the Michael Palin Centre being named after him following his role in “A Fish Called Wanda”, in which he portrayed a character called Ken who stammered. He based the role on his own father who suffered from stammering all his life. Michael’s continued support and involvement has helped create a high profile for the Centre and we are very fortunate to have him.

  • Rt Hon Ed Balls

    Ed Balls was appointed vice-president of Action for Stammering Children in 2016.  The former Labour MP and Shadow Chancellor has been a supporter of the charity for many years and regularly meets children and young people to talk about the challenges of living with a stammer.  He is an active fundraiser for the charity, running marathons and speaking at fundraising events.   His book Speaking Out addresses his personal journey and the challenges he faces in public life of having a stammer.

  • Colin Firth CBE

    Colin Firth became involved with the Charity following his role as King George VI in ‘The King’s Speech.’ He says, “The King’s Speech taught me not only the cruelty of having a stammer but also the life-changing benefits specialist therapy can bring. Just as Lionel Logue unleashed the passion of a king, so too Action for Stammering Children is unlocking the potential of thousands of children in the UK every year.”

  • Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett

    Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett was Chair of ASC for ten years. Formerly, Chief Executive of Marie Curie and Chair of Chelsea & Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Sir Thomas also co-founded the Marshall Institute for Philanthropy at the London School of Economics. In 2021, Sir Thomas was appointed Chair of the John Innes Centre.

  • Joanna Hunter OBE

    Jo Hunter first became involved with ASC in 2008 as Treasurer, and has been committed ever since, witnessing first-hand the transformative work of the Charity. She was Chair of the Board of Trustees from 2014 to 2021 in which time the Charity helped more than 30,000 children and young people. Jo trained at PricewaterhouseCoopers specialising in audit and taxation and is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales, and has a wide range of charity and business experience. She was also Co-Founder of Smart Works Charity and was awarded an OBE in 2019 for her charity work.