Minister for Social Services, Michael McGimpsey, has outlined plans for the introduction of compulsory registration of social care workers across Northern Ireland.
Social care workers include those who work as home care assistants or work in residential care homes.
Up until now, registration has been voluntary with only 7,500 of an estimated work force of 27,000 being registered with the Northern Ireland Social Care Council.
That means some of these people will not have been properly vetted for their suitability for working with those who are the most vulnerable.
Mr McGimpsey said registration of the workforce would assure the public of the competence and safety of individual staff.
"I am committed to ensuring unsuitable people are prevented from working with children or vulnerable adults and to improving the standard of social services," he said.
The registration process will be introduced on a staged basis with social care managers of residential, day care and domicilliary care being among the first to sign up.
Unqualified residential child care workers and social care workers in adult residential or nursing homes settings will also be among the first 14,000 to be registered