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The Groundwork We're Laying Means Our Children Will Benefit From the Best Possible Start in Life

12/08/2015 18:07 BST | Updated 12/08/2016 10:59 BST

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To mark 100 days of the first Conservative government in nearly 20 years, HuffPost UK is running 100 Days of Dave, a special series of blog posts from grassroots campaigners to government ministers, single parents to first-year students, reflecting on what's worked and what hasn't, whilst looking for solutions to the problems we still face.

It's been an enormous privilege for me to return to government as childcare minister. When I got the call from the prime minister back in May, it was no less exhilarating then when I was first appointed to the role just over a year ago. And I passionately believe that it is one of the most important jobs in politics. But as a father to my one and a half year old son, I shared the same questions that race through millions of hard working parents' minds - who will help look after my child when I return to work?

High quality, affordable childcare matters, because the way we work is changing. Parents are continuing to take advantage of flexible working and part-time working so they can fit their lives around their family. And more women than ever before have the choice, and are choosing, to work. There are 14.5million women in work today - up 60% since the early 1970s, with around two-thirds of mums in England now in work.

But childcare isn't a women's issue - it's a parental issue - and no parent should have to choose between their career and their children. Parents who want to work and get on should have the chance to return to their day job, while safe in the knowledge that their child is being well cared for by high quality, knowledgeable staff.

Yet childcare isn't cheap, and cost has historically denied parents from accessing the childcare options that work best for their family. We are committed to removing these barriers, which is why we introduced 15 hours of free childcare for all parents.

And we know this is what parents want - the evidence is there for all to see. The vast majority of parents with three and four-year-olds - more than one million families - are now benefitting from this offer and taking up their places. And these childcare places are of higher quality than ever, with 85% of childcare businesses rated 'good' or 'outstanding' - giving the next generation the very best start in life. This is fantastic news.

As proud as I am about the current lay of the land in childcare, there's no question of us taking our foot of the pedal. To make sure that not a moment is wasted in delivering upon our commitment to support working parents, we are doubling the amount of free childcare available to working parents, from 15 hours to 30 per week from 2017. This new offer will save hard working families around £5,000 a year - meaning more money in their back pockets.

Many parents will benefit as early as next year, with pilots in some areas offering 30 hours' worth of free childcare from September 2016. This is great news for hard working families, and it's a great opportunity for childcare providers to expand their business by reaching out to more parents than ever before in providing flexible, affordable childcare.

You may have heard concerns from businesses that increasing the amount of free childcare for hard working families may be difficult for them to finance. That's exactly why we have committed to increase the average funding rate provided to them, and we have already begun overseeing this review. And the Early Years Pupil Premium gives providers £300 per eligible child to improve the quality of early years provision for disadvantaged children.

A new government taskforce, attended by ministers across government, will also work to drive forward the plans to benefit the most important people in the childcare market - hard working families who want the best for their children.

And just last month, childcare was a prominent part of the chancellor's budget - underlying our commitment to making sure that the expanded offer of free childcare is fairly funded.

So while we've achieved a huge amount over the past 100 days, there's still a lot of work to be done. And I'm committed to putting in that work so we can make changes that help hard working families for years to come. We couldn't have a better foundation to build from, and I'm confident that the groundwork we're laying today will mean our children and our children's children will benefit from the best possible start in life.

Sam Gyimah is Childcare Minister and the Conservative MP for East Surrey

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