A court in Tbilisi, the capital city of Georgia, has ruled that taking children from parents over poverty is illegal, in a ground-breaking case which has made precedent in the country.

The case involved three children who were removed from their parents by social workers who had failed to try to provide state support for the family beforehand. The children spent two years in state care before they were reunited with their families.

The Tbilisi City Court ordered the Georgian government to pay each child £8,000 for the harm they suffered as a result of the separations.

The court case is the first to use Georgia’s new child rights focused lawsuits.

The process — produced in partnership with the European Council and using the Partnership for Good Governance guidelines — allows children to appeal decisions about them using a child-friendly form. The pioneering form enables children to write down their wishes and feelings, and ask the court for help and for assistance in appointing lawyers.

The court heard directly from the children in the case through the lawsuit they filed, which included details about the errors that were made during their child welfare investigations.

A Facebook post published by the Council of Europe’s Georgia office on June 15, said the court held that the decision was made in the best interests of the children. Lawyers representing the children said the judgment was “a great achievement for the judiciary.”

Growing concerns that children in England and Wales have been unjustly removed from their parents by local authorities simply because the families were experiencing poverty have been voiced by researchers, pioneering social workers and key stakeholders inside the child protection sector in recent years.

A growing body of research has shown that children living in the poorest areas are more likely to be taken into care, with single mothers being a significant at-risk group when it comes to inappropriate child removal.

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The children in the case, outside the court house, following the final hearing.