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 Directors have been major contributors to two important recent reports on outcomes-based commissioning and SIBs. The first was commissioned by the Centre for SIBs within the Department for Digital, Culture,

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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).  We have undertaken over 25 SIB projects working with more than 30 lead commissioners, numerous potential co-commissioners, a wide range of VCSE providers from large national charities to small local specialists, and most of the leading social investors.  We have supported a number of clients to apply successfully to both the Commissioning Better Outcomes (CBO) and Life Chances Funds, and subsequently implement successful contracts.

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 or have been an approved provider under the Investment and Contract Readiness, Big Potential, Impact Readiness and Impact for Growth 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 put in place the organisational changes, systems and processes needed to support successful 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

Family Drug and Alcohol Court National Unit - We supported the FDAC NU in the development of a SIB proposition that will fund the scaling up of its interventions with families whose children are subject to care proceedings due to parental substance misuse and domestic violence in the home. Our primary role, working in partnership with Triodos, was to support successful engagement wth local commssioners including Kent and Medway, Coventry and Newcastle Councils, and a consortium of six LAs in the Black Country. We supported an application to the LIfe Chances Fund which led to an award of £6.2m - the largest award (both by value and proportion of total outcome payments) given so far by the LCF.

North Somerset Council -  We completed a feasibility study for North Somerset Council who wanted to commission an intervention that would enable famly reunification and reduce the number of looked after children.  Our support was funded through a Commissioning Better Outcomes (CBO) Development Grant and helped the Council submit a sucessful full application to the CBO Fund.  The Council has this year gone live with an outcomes-based contract that is supported by social investment from Bridges Fund Management.

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.

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.

Working with ATQ through Central Funds

Working with ATQ through central funding

ATQ has worked extensively with charities and social ventures in situations where our support and advice is funded by grants frorn central sources such as the Access Foundation or the Big Lottery Fund.  Funding takes the form of grants that pay for the specialist support we and other technical experts provide. ATQ has been a proven and successful provider under several Funds that are now closed including the Investment and Contract Readiness Fund, the Big Potential Fund, the Commissioning Better Outcomes Fund and the Impact Readiness Fund.

Currently we are supporting ventures through the Impact Growth Fund and the Life Chances Fund.

The Impact Growth Fund

The Impact Growth Fund is one strand of the Impact Management Programme, further details of which can be found here.  This Fund is open only to ventures that have attended an approved training course. If you have attended this training (which is now closed to new applicants) we hope you will consider ATQ to work with you.  ATQ has been an approved supplier since the start of the programme and is already delivering support to a venture under the pilot round, where.almost £500,000 was distributed to 11 organisations

Trained organisations can  apply for a grant - working with an approved supplier such as ATQ - to develop a project that will improve systems and processes. The Fund has a further £1.3m of funding available, and expects to award at least 26 further grants. If you are eligible to apply for the Fund and wish to work with us, please contact us as soon as possible so that we have time to put together a strong application.

The Life Chances Fund

The £80m Life Chances Fund was launched in July 2016 with the objective of tackling entrenched social issues and helping those people in society who face the most significant barriers to leading happy and productive lives.  It provides funding to both commissioners and VCSEs who wish to develop outcomes-based contracts and social impact bonds (SIBs).

Commissioners and VCSEs who have submitted a successful expression of interest to the LCF may also receive grant funding to help them develop their proposition.  ATQ is one of the leading providers of this type of development support, and has a long track record of success in supporting organisations to develop SIBs under both the LCF and predecessor funds with similar objectives such as the Commissioning Better Outcomes Fund and Social Outcomes Fund.

If you have been awarded development grant funding under the LCF and are looking for support, then please contact Neil Stanworth by emailing neil@atqconsultants or telephoning 07811 282059.



ATQ co-authors major research on outcomes commissioning and Social Impact Bonds

ATQ Directors have been major contributors to two important recent reports on outcomes-based commissioning and SIBs.

The first was commissioned by the Centre for SIBs within the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and looks at the challenges and benefits of commissioning social impact bonds and the potential for replicating and scaling this type of contract. The report presents practical tips for commissioners to facilitate an easier commissioning process and provides recommendations to government to further the replication and scaling of SIBs in the UK. It was co-authored by ATQ Director Neil Stanworth along with colleagues from Ecorys UK and can be downloaded here. Neil has also written this blog summarising the report’s findings with Rachel Wooldridge from Ecorys.

The other report was a major update on the evaluation of the Commissioning Better Outcomes Fund which ATQ have been supporting, again alongside Ecorys, since 2014. This report draws on a range of other work done as part of the evaluation, including in-depth reviews of specific projects and stand-alone surveys of key stakeholders.  It includes major contributions from both Neil and fellow ATQ Director Edward Hickman, and can be downloaded here.  Another blog by Neil about this report can also be found on the GO Lab website here

ATQ appointed Implementation Partner for Home Office Trusted Relationships Programme

ATQ is delighted to have been appointed Implementation Partner for the Home Office’s £13m Trusted Relationships Fund.  The Home Office has awarded grant funding to 11 Local Authorities to deliver Trusted Relationship programmes aimed at young people aged 10 – 17 years old who are vulnerable to sexual exploitation, gang involvement and/or peer abuse.  ATQ, along with our partners for this project, Circles South East, will be providing implementation support and monitoring of all the programmes as well as designing and delivering shared learning events throughout the four year life of the programme (funding for 2020-2022 dependent on the spending review settlement).

ATQ Director joins GOLab Fellows of Practice Network

Neil, Stanworth, one of ATQ's Directors, has been appointed a Fellow of Practice at the Government Outcomes Lab (GO Lab) from January 2018.

Fellows of Practice work with GO Lab to provde support and advice to commissioners and others and help GO Lab develop its role as a global leader in the research and practice of commissioning for outcomes. It is an honorary position offered to those who have recognised expertise in the field of outcome based commissioning and have a commitment to supporting the work of the Lab.

Neil commented:  'I am delighted to be joining the Fellows of Practice network which gives me the chance to share the expertise that my ATQ colleagues and I have built up across more than 20 projects related to outcomes - based commissioning and social impact bonds.'


ATQ supports largest award under the Life Chances Fund

ATQ is very pleased to have supported two sucessful bids under the first round of awards from the Life Chances Fund.

ATQ supported  the Family Drug and Alochol Court National Unit, which received the largest single award  to date from the Fund of £6.05m . This will fund a Social Impact Bond (SIB) that will support families whose children are subject to care proceedings due to parental substance misuse and domestic violence in the home. We also supported the application from Suffolk County Council, which received £442,400 to develop a programme that will aim to reduce the number of adolescents entering or staying in care in Suffolk.

ATQ has since supported a number of SIB development projects that led to applications to the second round of the LCF by the end of October, These included applications for support to SIBs that aim to impovre outcomes for pre-school chidren, for disadvanatged young people and for adults with mentakl health issues.

If you would like to hear more about how ATQ could help you develop a SIB or similarr contract under the LCF, please contact us.

ATQ appointed an approved provider under the Impact Management Programme

ATQ is delighted to have been appointed an approved provider under the Impact Growth strand of the Impact Managment Programme

The Fund provdes grants - working with an approved supplier such as ATQ - to help social ventures develop a project that will improve their impact management systems and processes. The Fund has a further £1.3m of funding available, and expects to award at least 26 further grants. If you are eligible to apply for the Fund and wish to work with us, please contact us as soon as possible so that we have time to put together a strong application

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.

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.

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: First Floor, Phoenix House, 2 Phoenix Park, Eaton Socon, St Neots, PE19 8EP

Registered in England and Wales. Company number 8768061