PARENTS were yesterday urged to ask for cheaper childcare, after a new survey found huge variations in creche charges.
Families are paying up to €14,000 a year for childcare for just one child, but there are huge variations in creche fees -- even in neighbouring areas.
The National Consumer Agency (NCA) said their survey showed it is worthwhile seeking a better price given the high costs for families and the fact many creches have spare places.
"It was found that discounts on scheduled fees may be available in some cases, were a parent to specifically ask for a lower fee," they said.
Their survey of 81 private childcare facilities shows full-time care for a baby costs an average of €191 per week -- but can cost as much as €268 a week -- adding up to €13,936 a year.
There were major regional variations. The highest average prices were €233 per week in the Swords area of north Dublin, some 50pc dearer than the €155 charged in Waterford and Sligo.
But while local factors influenced the general rates in an area, there were still huge variations in the same locations -- in Dublin city centre, for example, charges ranged from €185 a week to €268, a difference of 45pc. And the cheapest price recorded was in the Tralee, Co Kerry area at just €140 in one creche.
Full-time toddler care was slightly cheaper at €181 per week on average.
Childcare is typically one of the biggest expenses in a family budget, making it vital creches make their prices easily accessible, said NCA Director of Research Maria Hurley.
While other factors such as location, staff qualifications, play facilities and opening hours were important, affordability was now a key consideration for many parents.
Most creches offer a discount for siblings, but this varies enormously, averaging around 7pc but going as high as 35pc for the second child.
The NCA said 44pc of creches surveyed displayed a price list at their premises and they were working with representative bodies to improve this.