A fresh definition of the skills and knowledge required by child and family social workers has been unveiled by the Chief Social Worker for Children and Families as part of the "most significant transformation" of the profession "in a generation", the Department for Education has said.

The new measures follow the publication in February this year of Sir Martin Narey's review into the education of social workers, which recommended greater rigour in training, a sharper focus on practical skills and places for only the best students.

The knowledge and skills statement provides a summary of what child and family social workers need to know and be able to do and has been formulated to help overhaul training.

Chief Social Worker for Children and Families Isabelle Trowler said: "I'm determined to ensure we earn the public's respect and confidence in our profession by ensuring that every child and family social worker is properly supported to do the job society needs them to do.

"Having absolute clarity about what a social worker needs to know and be able to do and testing that knowledge and skill against a national standard is a critical part of this ambition."

Publication of the new summary comes as the Government also launched plans for a new "gold standard" for social workers supporting vulnerable families and children at risk of abuse or neglect.

The department said the new Approved Child and Family Practitioner status would "ensure the highest levels of public protection for our most vulnerable children".

It said the specialist licence would only be awarded after completing and passing a test based on the knowledge and skills outlined by the Chief Social Worker.

The knowledge and skills statement will be subject to a 10-week public consultation.

It sets out in 11 areas what child and family social workers are expected to know, including: the role of child and family social work; child development; adult mental ill-health, substance misuse, domestic violence, physical ill-health and disability; abuse and neglect of children; effective direct work with children and families; child and family assessment; analysis, decision-making, planning and review; the law and family justice system; professional ethics; the role of supervision and research; plus the organisational context.

Sir Martin said: "Perhaps the most important of my recommendations from my report on social work education was that we should have a brief summary of the things every newly qualified children's social worker should be able to explain.

"Isabelle Trowler started work on this immediately my report was published and the statement reflects discussions with practitioners, academics and others. I think it has the potential significantly to improve the capacity and confidence of newly qualified social workers and I hope that the response to the consultation is constructive and prolific."

The Chief Social Worker for Adults, Lyn Romeo, is currently developing a complementary statement for adult social workers and will be consulting on this shortly, the department added.

Minister for children and families Edward Timpson, who grew up with around 90 foster children and worked as a family lawyer in the care system for over a decade, said: "These new measures announced today will help set social work on a whole new path to success - setting the very highest standards for social workers providing greater assurance to the public and most importantly ensuring the very best for our children."