Boots, the UK’s leading pharmacy-led health and beauty retailer is peddling the Government’s highly divisive PREVENT programme by instructing its employees to take ‘notice’ of their colleagues’ changes in behaviour.

A ‘Safeguarding and Prevent’ guidance poster displayed on the walls of its branches as well as a PDF form in the Corporate Responsibility section of the Boots website make implementing Prevent a collective responsibility.

The company instructs staff on how to spot the signs of ‘vulnerability’ which are devastatingly broad and include changes in mood, changes in eating habits and even a change in appearance. This approach in itself is unprecedented; many of these so-called signs are not even found in the highly disputed ERG 22+ factors that form the basis of PREVENT.

The misinformed policy of Boots fails to accurately identify the official aim of PREVENT, “to stop people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism”, but rather sets out their aim as ensuring staff “are not drawn towards extremism”. This sweeping company policy has also extended the duty to a corporate setting where it is “everybody’s responsibility”.

This guidance to Boots staff will only serve to generate mistrust, suspicion and facilitate for a toxic programme and its harmful effects to be extended to the private sector and amongst employees on the high street.

Moazzam Begg, Outreach Director for CAGE, said:

“I was made aware of this particular application of PREVENT guidance by a former university lecturer who’d been out shopping at his local branch of Boots, who said:

‘I was gobsmacked. It was in public view. I don’t work in there, I was just going in to get my prescription and just saw it in front of me; above a notice for prescription charges. Anyone could have seen this. I’m not sure whether they are informing on their staff or whether it is customers as well’.

“The disturbing part about this is that PREVENT has not just encroached upon the relationship of trust between teacher and pupil, doctor and patient and colleagues at work but, some customers clearly believe that it may now potentially seek to extend its reach to cashiers and paying customers. The cumulative effect of this can only sow the seeds of mistrust and discord.

“If a highly respectable high street retailer like Boots has entered the business of policing its staff, then the public needs to know. They also need to know which other companies are following suit.”


CC image courtesy of Howard Lake on Flickr


(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)