Social-work students are to receive bursaries worth about £3,000 a year and have their tuition fees paid.
Health minister Jacqui Smith said: "We want to see more people entering the social-work profession and to encourage people into social-work training."
The non-means-tested bursary will be paid to social-work students who are not funded by their employers. The rates will be at least £3,000 a year, plus tuition fees for those students who do not receive them from local authorities or employers.
Students aged over 25 on postgraduate courses already get a bursary and the Department of Heath said this week that this would continue, although an element of means-testing will be introduced. The postgraduate route accounts for about a fifth of those going into social work.
* Liz Doel has just qualified as a social worker after having completed a masters at Birmingham University. She was not eligible for a bursary as she was under 25.
Her father is head of social work at the University of Central England. He said:"The new bursaries should help this department at UCE to recruit students to our new three-year degree, and we particularly welcome the fact that they will be paid to existing students as well."
Ms Doel works at the Fireside Centre, Birmingham. "I had to work full time while completing my dissertation as I couldn't afford not to," she said. "My starting salary was just £16,200."