Education Secretary Michael Gove has announced the appointment of the first Chief Social Worker for children and families in England, as well as a new fast-track scheme designed to attract top graduates into the profession.
The creation of an office of Chief Social Worker was a key recommendation of the 2011 Munro Report into child protection, commissioned by the Government in the wake of a series of high-profile cases including the death of Baby P (Peter Connolly).
The first holder of the post will be Isabelle Trowler, a social worker who has been credited with transforming children's services in the inner-London borough of Hackney. Taking up her post in September, she will have the job of leading reforms of the profession, championing best practice and improving performance.
Ms Trowler has helped design the curriculum for the new Frontline programme for would-be social workers, which begins recruiting this September for fast-track courses starting in 2014.
The first 100 graduates on the course will be given two years' hands-on work at a local authority, alongside further academic study and intensive leadership training, with salaries comparable to those joining the Teach First scheme to attract high-performing students into the classroom.
Mr Gove said: "Good social workers literally save lives; the bad can leave them in ruins. I am delighted that Isabelle Trowler has agreed to lead our reform programme; to challenge as well as to champion the profession so that vulnerable children and families are better protected.
"I am also very pleased to announce our support for Frontline, an exciting proposal and a real challenge for the brightest applicants who will have the privilege and satisfaction of helping to improve the lives of the most vulnerable children in the country."
Ms Trowler said: "I know the best social work can transform lives but too often we only hear about the things that go wrong. I want to raise standards throughout the profession so that every social work team in the country is as good as the best.
"Children's social work is one of the hardest jobs a person can accept, and offers a unique opportunity to work with the most vulnerable families in the country. I am very excited by the opportunity I have to champion social work as well as challenge the profession, its employers and educators too, to deliver the very best for families."
Frontline will be chaired by Labour's former Cabinet minister Lord Adonis, who said: "There is an urgent need to transform life chances for abused and neglected children and Frontline will play a vital part in addressing this national challenge."