Figures released by the Minister for Children show childcare is a major cost for most parents and continues to be a financial burden.

The average full-time childcare fees recorded in May were €184 per week, an increase of 3.6% from the same time last year. 

Publishing the figures, Minister Katherine Zappone said her priority is to reduce the costs to parents and bring them into line with EU norms.

The findings highlight major differences in the price parents have to pay for their children's care, depending on where they are living.

The figures are based on information drawn from almost 4,000 early learning and childcare service providers around the country.

Lowest full-time fees for children aged two and three were found to be in Co Carlow, at a cost of €148 per week, with the highest full-time fees in Dublin, in the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown area, costing €251 per week. 

Ms Zappone said: "Despite record investment in early learning and care and school-age childcare  with 117% increase in investment over the past four consecutive Budgets, the cost to families of early learning and care and school-age childcare remains higher in Ireland than in other OECD countries  with wide variation in fees across the country."

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Frances Byrne, Director of Policy & Advocacy Early Childhood Ireland, said Ireland lags way behind other European countries when it comes to childcare and its "embarrassingly last in terms of investment in early years."

Speaking on RTÉ's Today with Sean O' Rourke, Ms Byrne said as a result parents are left with a financial burden. 

"The truth is Ireland lags way way behind other European countries, in fact it's embarrassingly last in terms of investment in early years. So of course parents are going to be left picking up the pieces in terms of fees.

"We need a long term funding and investment programme that will bring us much higher up and in line with Scandinavian countries."