The future of Canberra's central Centrelink office, and the essential face-to-face services it provides, is in doubt.
The situation only became apparent after an advertisement for rental space in the Braddon office building was spotted on social media.
The office of federal Member for Canberra Alicia Payne spied the familiar red-brick Braddon building with Centrelink signage on a sponsored Facebook post as "available for lease from early 2022".
"And we said, well, isn't that the Centrelink office?" the Labor MP told The Canberra Times. "Which shows the government are secretly plotting to close Centrelink."
"They have been secretly closing down Centrelink shopfronts around the country and it seems that the Braddon one is next on the list."
A letter from the Minister for Government Services Linda Reynolds to Ms Payne confirms the current lease expires on February 28, 2022 and Services Australia is currently considering its face-to-face service office for North Canberra.
The letter broadly states that fewer clients are using service centres and are instead using telephone self-services and online self-serve channels such as MyGov and mobile apps.
Ms Payne said the ministerial response was not clear, but she expects it will lead to closure which she opposes. She says a face-to-face service is vital for clients as many Centrelink matters can be complex such as completing youth allowance or disability support pension forms.
As well, she says older clients and others who struggle with computers and smart phones should have a face-to-face option.
"I would have hoped that the government would consult with the community before advertising an office space on Facebook," she said.
"We've got older people accessing their age pension, people with disabilities, people in situations of domestic violence who might not be able to use a computer or phone at home or have access to that, people facing homelessness through experiencing homelessness.
"There are a range of reasons why people need to be able to access face-to-face services with Centrelink."
The three other Centrelink service centres in the ACT are in Belconnen, Phillip and Greenway. It is not known whether the Braddon office will close with the end of the lease or may emerge somewhere else around Civic.
"Well, I just don't trust this government with Centrelink at all," Ms Payne said.
"What is the reason for ending this lease? That is not explained in my response from Linda Reynolds at all."
"If it were to be moved, people absolutely need access to an office in a central place like Braddon.
"That would be the only one in Civic or inner north area, for people do access and people absolutely need a face-to-face Centrelink there.
"Quite frankly, the payments such as JobSeeker are so low that the extra cost of a bus fare or transport to get there could be prohibitive for people to access those services."
A spokesperson for Minister Linda Reynolds confirmed to the Canberra Times that the current lease for the Braddon service centre expires in February 2022.
"As leases come up for renewal, Services Australia takes the opportunity to review service centre tenancies to ensure they're fit-for-purpose and aligns with the changing needs of the community," the spokesperson said in a statement.
"The agency considers a range of factors, including convenience to the community, the demand for services across the geographic footprint, and access to public transport.
"If any changes are planned to servicing in the Braddon area, Services Australia will engage with the community and staff to ensure they're thoroughly informed."
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