Scope Of Work For External Review


Pioneer Trust have commissioned Christian Safeguarding Services (CSS) to examine past and present culture and practice, to identify any failures or deficiencies in their policies, practices and safeguarding arrangements, to seek to understand the impact of such failures or deficiencies and the prevalence and scope of harm that has been caused, and to recommend changes and improvements to practice.

The concerns currently identified do not meet the threshold for referral to statutory services (e.g., the Police or Social Care), and there is no indication that any person engaging with Pioneer is currently at risk, nor are the trustees aware of any concerns about the conduct of current staff or members of its leadership team.

This review was initiated after a complaint was raised with Pioneer Trust in July 2023 about their late founder and former Network Leader, Gerald Coates, who led the network up until 2009. The concerns relate to approaches to ministry and pastoral practice.

If, during the course of this review or arising from its findings and recommendations, it becomes clear that further action is required, this will be taken in a timely manner. Any discovery of criminal activity or safeguarding breaches would be passed to the appropriate statutory services. Any discoveries that require urgent action, but which do not meet statutory thresholds would be communicated to Pioneer Trust by CSS for them to action according to their internal procedures.      

The scope of this review is broad, and Pioneer Trust and CSS are committed to following the evidence and considering any information that comes to light. The main limitation in the scope is that this is a review of Pioneer Trust, and focuses on areas in which they are active or for which they have responsibility. It is not a review of Gerald Coates’ activity in other spheres, neither is it restricted to concerns about him. The review wishes to hear from anyone who has information that will help us to understand where improvements need to be made to the culture and practice of Pioneer Trust.


The purpose of the review is to:

  • Provide an independent and safe channel for anyone with safeguarding concerns related to Pioneer Trust or individuals who have acted on their behalf.
  • Assess the accuracy of Pioneer leadership’s self-assessment of the proportionality and effectiveness of the safeguarding arrangements.
  • Understand the scope and prevalence of past or current harmful experiences, or poor safeguarding or ministry practice, resulting from the activities of Pioneer Trust or individuals who have acted on their behalf.
    • Understand what was known about such practices or incidents, by whom, and when.
    • Understand what actions were taken in response to identified concerns and the extent of compliance with organisational policy, legislation and guidance, and safeguarding best practice.
  • Understand the culture across Pioneer Trust activities with specific reference to the safeguarding culture and how safeguarding is embedded into the ministry culture.
    • This will include, but is not limited to, consideration of how senior leaders are held accountable and challenged.
  • Apply the learning from the above to improve practice and safeguarding arrangements.
  • Assess the current safeguarding arrangements and culture and identify any deficiencies and required improvements.
  • Identify any other actions that may be required (e.g. staff disciplinary actions, actions in relation to trustees etc) and ensure that they are understood and that Pioneer Trust have the information needed to enact their policies and procedures in a timely manner.

Scope of the review

This review:

  • Focuses exclusively upon the activities of Pioneer Trust (charity number 1118766) and their activity as a charity.
    • Any concerns about Pioneer Network Churches (which are independent charities, subject to the requirements of the relevant charity regulator), or about organisations with whom Pioneer Trust partners, but where Pioneer trust has no direct responsibility or authority need to be addressed by the relevant legal entity.
    • Concerns about activities in which Pioneer Trust co-delivers with other charities in a partnership arrangement (whether network churches or other charities and regardless of the formality / informality or the partnership) and where Pioneer Trust therefore has shared or full responsibility and authority are included in the scope of this review.
  • Provides an opportunity for those who have been harmed by their involvement with Pioneer or who have concerns about their culture or safeguarding practice, to raise their concerns and have their voices heard.   
  • Examines the activities and culture of Pioneer Trust. It is not an investigation into particular actions of any specific individual(s).  If this review identifies the need for investigation of other individuals, this will be initiated in a timely manner. The aim of this review, however, is to consider the experiences of those who have engaged with the charity in the past or currently.
    • The review provides opportunity to identify further concerns or allegations that are currently unknown to the Trust, and to gather additional information relating to the concerns already identified.
    • The review will also consider the effectiveness of Pioneer’s responses when concerns were raised, the extent to which policies, procedures and best practice were followed, and the extent to which the safeguarding arrangements currently in place minimise the risk of recurrence of such concerns.
  • Seeks to identify learning from the past to shape future development of safeguarding practice, however, if concerns are identified that require referral to statutory agencies, such referrals will be made in a timely manner in accordance with legal requirements. 
  • Considers the extent to which the implications and impact of subjective factors, (e.g. theological perspectives, presuppositions, world-views and paradigms) and the dynamics or power, have been clearly understood and managed by the organisation’s leaders:
    • The extent to which their approach to safeguarding reflects and has been shaped by biblical values and beliefs.
    • The clarity with which they have understood and managed the impact of these subjective factors on safeguarding arrangements and practice, and the proportionality and effectiveness of measures implemented to manage any perceived or identified risks or impacts.   
    • The extent to which these subjective factors may have impacted the effectiveness of senior leaders and the effectiveness of accountability structures.
  • Assesses the proportionality and effectiveness of the current safeguarding arrangements.

Proposed activity

  • Public appeal for information.
  • Interview respondents to appeal for information as required.
  • Review of handling of past known concerns including review of paperwork and interviews as required.
  • Review all documentation as required, including relevant records of concerns and complaints and previous versions of policies, procedures and Codes of Conduct, risk registers and risk assessments etc as required.
  • Interviews with staff or volunteers as required.
  • Review current policies, practice and safeguarding culture.
  • Reporting on findings and providing recommendations for improvements to safeguarding practice.