Welcome to
ATQ Consultants

Experts in:
  • Complex commissioning
  • Payment by results
  • Social investment
  • Social Impact Bonds
  • Capacity building
  • Commercial readiness
  • Commercial due diligence
About Us

A boutique consulting firm
established in 2012 by a team with
many years' experience, ATQ stands
for "Answer the Question" which
we always promise to do.

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We provide the public, private and
social sectors with leading-edge
services that enable change,
innovation and excellence in public
service delivery.

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Latest News

ATQ is pleased to have been
appointed as an approved
provider under the Big Potential
Advanced Fund.

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About Us

The ATQ Directors have worked together for many years, and across three different organisations. All have more than 20 years experience of working with and for the public sector, with public service commissioners and providers, and with investors.

Edward Hickman
Edward Hickman

Edward focuses on the design and implementation of robust development plans. He has worked extensively with commissioners, public service providers, and investors, both social and mainstream. His career spans in-house and external consultancies, and ranges from major corporate re-organisations to support to many small-scale organisations with their business and investment plans, as well as due diligence projects for investors in public services.

Neil Stanworth
Neil Stanworth

Neil has a proven track record in defining strategies and improving performance across public sector bodies, private companies and social sector organisations. He specialises in complex commissioning including payment by results and SIBs, market analysis, and commercial readiness. His career spans consultancy, business development in the public services industry and the civil service, where he began his career as a “fast stream” policy advisor.

Eileen Robinson
Eileen Robinson

Eileen has particular expertise in social policy areas and in payment by results and social impact bonds, drawing on expertise in outcomes-based commissioning, procurement and complex service measurement. Eileen started her career as a civil servant before going to work as a consultant in a boutique consultancy that focussed on the public sector and in the corporate development arm of a major public services provider.


While our services frequently cross organisational boundaries, they usually fall into one of four main service lines as described below. To see examples of specfic projects click here.

Commissioner advice and support

We work with commissioners across central and local government to help them make better informed decisions through options appraisal and feasibility study. We also support them in developing and implementing plans to commission and procure services from both the private sector and VCSEs.

In recent years we have developed particular expertise in outcomes-based commissioning and contracting and especially Payment by Results (PbR) and Social Impact Bonds (SIBs).  ATQ also has many years’ experience of supporting the public sector in conventional (fee for service) commissioning and subsequent procurement, most often when services are complex and difficult to specify or the market which provides them is not well developed. 

Social investment and SIBs

ATQ works with service providers to help them understand their social investment options, engage with investors and prepare the business case to raise funding.  We can help you raise both direct working capital and backing for a Social Impact Bond.

All of our clients are voluntary, community and social enterprises (VCSE) delivering services that improve social outcomes across a wide range of areas.  These include community health, social care, offender rehabilitation, children and families, and social housing.

Where Government is commissioning providers to deliver through SIBs (such as DWP Innovation Funds, Fair Chance Fund, Youth Engagement Fund etc.) we work with you to raise the funds from investors.  While ATQ does not operate as a contract holding intermediary we are happy to manage any special purpose vehicle that does hold the contract.

Social sector capacity building

ATQ helps social sector providers large and small build capacity and long term sustainability by improving both contract and investment readiness.  We are an approved provider under the Investment and Contract Readiness, Big Potential and Impact Readiness Funds.

Our support ranges from organisational development (do we have the right people with the right skills?) through strategic analysis (what is our plan for developing our services in this sector?) to “sleeves rolled up” support to bid writing and pitching to commissioners and investors. We also help providers improve their measurement of social impact and the systems and processes needed to support social impact measurement and management 

Commercial readiness and due diligence

ATQ helps VCSEs, private businesses and investors meet new commercial challenges and understand new market opportunities through market analysis, and product and service development support.

We provide Commercial Due Diligence (CDD) support to investors in the public services industry in such areas asemployability, education and skills, health and social care, and software and support services.


We have set out below some examples of recent projects grouped by our main service lines.

Commissioner advice and support

North Somerset Council -  We recently completed a feasibility study for North Somerset Council who want to commision an intervention that will enable famly reunification and reduce the number of looked after children.  Our support was funded through a Commissioning Better Outcomes (CBO) Development Grant and included all the work needed to enable the Council to submit a full application to the CBO Fund

Cardiff Council – We carried out a full feasibility study for Cardiff Council into whether it could use a SIB to procure and fund interventions to enable looked after children to move from residential care into intensive fostering.  The Council sucessfully completed a SIB procurement based on our findings and recommendations. Read a fuller Case Study about our work with Cardiff here.

Cabinet Office - We carried out a major study for the Cabinet Office into whether and how payment by results or a SIB mechanism could be used to fund interventions for troubled families. We worked closely with four local authorities on this study, the results of which are published here.


Social investment and SIBs

HWWG – We supported HWWG with its approach to social investors for loan capital to fund the establishment of a new contact centre.  Two competing funding offers were on the table for HWWG to choose between.

Best Network / Sova – We supported this consortium to raise SIB finance from both social investors and corporations which is a requirement for a DWP bid.

Disability services bidding consortium for Remploy – We worked with the consortium to access and generate interest from social investors to co-fund a bid for Remploy.

Social sector capacity building

We supported a health and wellbeing provider become part of a prime contractor’s winning bid for a Government contract worth up to £15m over five years. 

We supported a community health provider with its organisational development programme as part of its preparations for a £20m+ per annum major re-tender.    

We worked with a provider of offender mentoring services in support of its positioning as a Tier II or III provider in the Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) landscape.  

Cabinet Office Rehabilitation Social Action Fund (RSAF) – We provided business planning and development support to improve the sustainability of 12 different VCSE organisations receiving Cabinet Office RSAF grants. There was a particular focus on explaining how or whether social investment is suitable for sustaining services, and identifying diversification options in new contract areas.

Commercial readiness and due diligence

Children’s services market  - We provided a strategic analysis of opportunities in the chiidren’s service market for a major public services provider

Montagu Private Equity acquisition of Clinisys – We provided commercial due diligence support to the Montagu team with its evaluation of Clinisys.  This included primary research of Clinisys’ health sector markets, its competitive position and its ability to deliver on its forecast business plan.  The acquisition was completed successfully in July 2013. 

Civica – On behalf of a potential investor, we led a full review of the driving forces and trends affecting the UK public sector markets for Civica’s software and services as well as a high level analysis of its competitive positioning.

Big Potential

Working with ATQ under the Big Potential Fund

ATQ is an approved provider for both Big Potential Breakthrough and Advancd Funds. This means that we can work with voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations (VSCEs) to apply for grants that pay for the specialist support we and other technical experts provide to help you build investment and contract readiness.

About Big Potential

Big Potential is aimed at eligible VCSEs to improve their sustainability, capacity and scale and help them deliver greater social impact for communities across England.

Big Potential is administered by the Social Investment Business on behalf of the Big Lottery Fund in partnership with Locality, Social Enterprise UK, Charity Bank and the University of Northampton.

A grant from the fund will help VCSEs, at the very beginning of their social investment journey, get specialist and tailored support to become investment ready.

To find out more about the Big Potential Fund and check whether you are eligible for funding, please visit its dedicated website here

Big Potential Breakthrough

Breakthrough is aimed at VCSE organisations based in England who are thinking about taking on social investment and have the ambition to raise up to £500,000 of repayable investment.  Eligible VCSE organisations will be able to apply for grants between £20,000 and £75,000 to undertake more in-depth investment readiness work. Breakthrough is aimed at VCSEs who need to raise limited amounts of social capital and/or may not yet have decided whether social investment is the right route for them.

Big Potential Advanced

Advanced is aimed at VCSE organisations based in England who are thinking about taking on social investment and have the ambition to raise over £500,000 of repayable investment and/or win a contract of above £1million.

The Advanced route of Big Potential is suited to VCSEs that are clear about how social investment could work for them and are able to describe a potential deal or interest from investors and need help to close that deal.  Grants of between £50,000 and £150,000 are available

Working with ATQ

As an approved Big Potential provider with a strong track record in both investment readiness and working with VCSEs large and small, ATQ is in a strong position to help you understand the challenges of becoming investment ready and ultimately secure investment to help you grow your venture.

If you think that the Big Potential Fund could help you and are interested in working with us, please contact one of our team.


ATQ an approved provider for Big Potential Advanced Fund and IRF Round 2

ATQ is pleased to have been appointed as an approved provider under the Big Potential Advanced Fund. Already an approved provider under the Breakthrough Fund (see below), we are now able to support ventures through the £10m Advanced Fund which provides larger grants of between £50,000 and £150,000 to support VCSEs that have better developed plans to raise social investment or pursue major contract opportunities. Further details are on our dedicated Big Potential page here.

ATQ is also delighted to have been re-appointed as a provider under the Impact Readiness Fund. The IRF was piloted last year, and ATQ successfully provided support through the Fund to both a cohort of three ventures and a stand-alone venture. The Fund has now re-opened for applications until January 2016.

ATQ appointed an approved provider under the Big Potential and Impact Readiness Funds

ATQ is pleased to have been appointed as an approved provider under both the Big Potential Breakthrough and Impact Readiness Funds. These provide grants to help voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations (VSCEs) buy in specialist technical support for investment and impact readiness.

The £10m Big Potential Fund is aimed at eligible VCSEs to improve their sustainability, capacity and scale and help them deliver greater social impact for communities across England. VCSEs can apply for grants between £20,000 and £75,000 in total to undertake investment readiness work with an approved provider such as ATQ.

The Impact Readiness Fund (IRF) is a new pilot fund through which grants between £15,000 and £150,000 will be available to help ventures build infrastructure and skills required to manage their performance, increase their social impact, and attract social investment / win contracts, again working with approved providers.

If you are interested in the Big Potential Fund please visit our dedicated Big Potential page or contact one of our team. If interested in the IRF please contact one of our team as soon as possible as applications to the Fund close on 16th January 2015.

Comments & discussion

Social Impact Bonds: the State of Play

ATQ has recently co-authored a major report on Social Impact Bonds and their development in the UK.  “Social Impact Bonds: the State of Play”, undertaken with Ecorys, is the first major report from the evaluation we are jointly conducting of the Big Lottery Fund's Commissioning Better Outcomes Fund (CBO).  It includes a review of available literature relating to SIBs, and the findings from research into attitudes to SIBs of key stakeholders including commissioners, providers and investors.

The report is available in both Summary and Full form and can be downloaded via the links at the bottom of the Big Lottery Fund's website page about the CBO here.  Or download the Summary here and the Full Report here.

In addition a blog about the report and its findings, written by Neil Stanworth of ATQ, is here.

Who is best placed to deliver public services?

ATQ has published a new think piece on the sometimes vexed question of who is best placed to deliver a public service, especially as regards the competing claims of public, private and third sectors. You can read the paper here

Response to the "Rehabilitation Revolution" Consultation Paper

ATQ has submitted a response to the Ministry of Justice's Consultation Paper on its proposals for a Rehabilitation Revolution. Our response focuses on how the MoJ might best implement the payment by results element of its proposals in a way which ensures that they are fair to providers and capable of attracting investment.  You can read our response here.

Payment by Results

ATQ has produced a new guide to payment by results (PBR) and its development in the UK. It is intended for those new to the subject but should also be useful to those already famiiar with some of the principles of PBR.  Download the guide here.

Commissioning for innovation

Is a different approach needed to commissioning and procurement, which holds providers to account while allowing space for genuine innovation? Read our commentary here.

Further discussion on a wider range of public sector issues can be found on our blog at 

Contact us

Edward Hickman
T:07540 540078

Neil Stanworth
T:07811 282059

Eileen Robinson
T:07830 849015

Visit us at our blog at or on Twitter @ATQConsultants

ATQ Consultants (UK) Ltd.
Registered office: The Old Bakery, 49 Post Street, Godmanchester, Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire PE29 2AQ
Registered in England and Wales. Company number 8768061