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In the Ascendency: Doncaster Tech Company Is Presented With First King’s Award

A pioneering technology company, which is hoping to use its skills and expertise to help some of Britain’s most vulnerable households access more than £19 billion of unclaimed benefits, has been praised by HM Lord-Lieutenant of South Yorkshire, Professor Dame Hilary Chapman DBE. This was during her visit to the company’s Doncaster-based headquarters.
Since 2020, Ascendant Solutions has successfully helped local authorities across the UK to distribute more than £1.8 billion to over 7 million recipients, and during a special presentation, Managing Director Darren Kelk outlined some of the company’s ambitious future plans. Specifically, they will be embracing new forms of technology to help reduce the administrative burden faced by local authorities and businesses in processing applications for access to any local services or funding schemes.
Ascendant Solutions is one of just 12 businesses in Yorkshire and the Humber to receive the prestigious King’s Award for Enterprise, in recognition of the groundbreaking work the company delivered at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. This year saw 149 awards presented across four categories which recognise outstanding achievements in the fields of: International Trade; Sustainability; Promoting Opportunity through Social Mobility; and Innovation. Ascendant Solutions is one of 47 national winners in the latter category. 
Founded by Darren Kelk and Richard Hanby in 2016, the company was quick to recognise the challenges faced by local authorities when it came to distributing Covid-19 grant payments to small businesses. Following initial discussions with four local authorities, the Ascendant team built a unique payment solution from scratch, with the aim of reducing the administrative burden faced by local authorities.
Following a 17-day marathon of programming, testing and refining, the company’s pioneering
Apply4.Online® system was ready to take its first orders. Remarkably, the third application they received was a duplicate of the first, demonstrating the amount of risk involved in the job almost immediately after launch.

Ascendant kept innovating and improving the system to refine the solution, The results proved to be immediate, reducing the time taken to process application payments by 70%, and with a fraud and error rate of just 0.8% (90% lower than the national average), the system successfully prevented more than £400 million of ineligible applications from being processed within its first year of operation.
Since that time, the business has successfully rolled out the innovative technology to help over 90 local authorities across the UK process a range of grant payments, including: council tax energy rebates; business support grants; discretionary housing payments; and welfare assistance. However, with many more households facing financial pressures as a result of the ongoing cost of living crisis, the Ascendant team has continued to invest in a range of new software solutions, embracing cutting edge technology like automation and A.I.
Darren Kelk, Managing Director, Ascendant Solutions, said: “Receiving the King’s Award for Enterprise is the proudest moment in my professional career to date. We knew that during the Covid-19 pandemic, local authorities were under extreme pressure to act swiftly when it came to administering the support grant schemes, but we also knew that without the necessary checks there was a genuine risk of the system being abused. Myself and Richard took it upon ourselves as a personal responsibility to the country, to use our expertise to help protect the public purse in any way we possibly could.
"We recognised that the system we had developed could be used to support the work of local authorities when it came to processing a range of different payments, and it has been adopted by more than 90 local authorities since that time. Since securing the King’s Award, we’ve remained committed to investing in new forms of technology, which we hope will result in the development of new solutions that will help to improve efficiency, reduce the administrative burden faced by many organisations and ultimately ensure many families are equipped with the vital support they need at the times when it is needed the most.”
HM Lord-Lieutenant of South Yorkshire Professor Dame Hilary Chapman DBE said: “The King’s Award for Enterprise is the most prestigious form of recognition that any business can achieve. The award celebrates outstanding achievement and is only presented to companies which have demonstrated that the innovation has been available for at least two years and outstanding commercial success has also been accomplished.  
"The success Ascendant Solutions has achieved within the context of a challenging economic environment for many businesses illustrates the vital role innovation can play when it comes to challenging the norm and finding new ways of identifying and overcoming longstanding problems.
In doing so, the company has successfully helped to reduce fraud, save time, but perhaps most importantly of all ensure that much needed funding, designed to help families access the right help at the right time, is available.”
Dan Fell, Chief Executive, Doncaster Chamber, added: “Winning a King's Award for Enterprise is an extraordinary feat. The team at Ascendant Solutions are true exemplars in their field and a credit to our business community here in Doncaster. Through their trailblazing Apply.4online® system, they’ve saved time and money for local authorities when it comes to the processing of all kinds of different applications. More importantly, however, they have ensured that financial support has been allocated to people — ranging from entrepreneurs to families — when they’ve needed it most.  
"In that sense, not only has Ascendant brought a great technical innovation to the market, but they have also made a tremendous impact in the community and in people’s lives. We are extremely proud to have them in our Chamber network, and I would like to personally congratulate them on their well-deserved success.”
Headquartered in St Catherine’s House, Ascendant Solutions is responsible for developing and implementing a wide range data-driven software solutions which are used by businesses and local authorities. The company employs 14 members of staff and supports the work of over 90 local authorities across the UK.

Over the past three years, the company has won a number of prestigious industry awards in recognition of its pioneering work, including the Institute of Revenues, Rating and Valuation’s Innovation award for three consecutive years. The company achieved ISO:27001 in 2018 and holds the Government backed Cyber Essentials Plus Kitemark.
Previously known as The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise, the King’s Awards programme is the UK’s most coveted business award, with successful businesses able to use the esteemed King’s Awards emblem for the next five years.

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