Two Canberra childcare centres run out of public service offices have closed in the last six months after the government agencies did not renew contracts subsidising their rent.
Birralee Early Educational and Care Centre at the Attorney-General's Department's 4 National Circuit office closed in December 2022 because the provider, Community Services #1, could not afford commercial rent.
The closure preceded an announcement that a childcare centre in the Department of Industry's Binara Street office would shut its doors in April, after a similar agreement ended.
The Attorney-General's Department awarded Community Services #1 a contract worth $2.7 million in 2012 to run the Acacia Early Education and Care Centre at 3-5 National Circuit, and a separate $2.2 million contract to run the Birralee Early Educational and Care Centre at 4 National Circuit.
Both contracts expired on December 31, 2022 and have not been extended, meaning the childcare centres would have to pay commercial rent in the buildings, which are owned by ISPT.
A spokesperson for the Attorney-General's Department did not say why the department chose not to renew the contracts.
They responded: "The landlord for the two buildings took on direct responsibility for the two childcare centres at the end of the existing contracts."
While Birralee has closed, Acacia Early Education and Care Centre is still operating.
Regional investment manager for ISPT Zoe Ferrari said the childcare centre at 4 National Circuit would be reopened by a new provider.
"ISPT have been pleased to consolidate Community Services #1 into 3-5 National Circuit on a new long-term lease," she said.
"These two new leases underpin our commitment to our tenant partners and the importance of ensuring choice of quality amenity is offered across our precincts."
Community Services #1 is also the provider for the centre at the Department of Industry, which advised parents in March that it could not afford to keep running.
The difference in rent would be dramatic, forcing the centre to close, chief executive of Community Services #1 Amanda Tobler told The Canberra Times at the time.
"We were unable to negotiate a rent that we could afford," she said.
"With the drop in occupancy as a result of COVID and the changes to government workplace activities, or how staff are doing much more hybrid methods of working, we just were unable to maintain the viability of the service."
The chief executive officer of an organisation representing early childhood educators said a proliferation of centres was putting pressure on providers.
"The concern from many providers in recent times has been that there is too much growth which puts pressure on existing services to maintain occupancy levels and retain staff," Early Childhood Australia's Samantha Page said.
"In the context of workforce shortages, too many new services coming on line too quickly are likely to exacerbate problems with recruitment and training."
There were 372 childcare centres in the ACT as of January 1, 2023 according to data from the Australian Children's Education & Care Quality Authority, a 0.3 per cent growth since 2021.
Ms Page said there did need to a be a coordinated approach between governments to determine where the greatest need for childcare services was.
"At the moment there is limited public information about occupancy and demand to inform new developments and limited restrictions on where new services can be built," she said.
Minister for Women and the Public Service Katy Gallagher did not respond to questions about the closures.
"This is a commercial arrangement for relevant departments," a spokesperson for the minister said in a statement.
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