At PlanNET we understand that everyone’s circumstances are different. If you have a query that is not addressed here, please feel free to contact our office to learn more about how we can help.
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1: What is a network?

A network is a committed group of people who develop friendships with a person who is isolated and vulnerable by reason of disability, living arrangement, limited opportunities, or society. A network is the bridge between living on the edge of community and being actively included and participating in it.

Each member of the network volunteers for a relationship with the focus person and with every other member of the network. Through their relationship these individuals offer support, advocacy, monitoring and companionship. Network members contribute to the person’s quality of life now, as well as preparing for their role after parents / guardians are no longer able.

2: When is the best time to start a network?

Any time is the right time to start a network and create a good life for a person with a disability. There are advantages in starting early but it is never too late.

3: What are the benefits of establishing a network when there may not appear to be a need for one?

  • Gives the family the opportunity to share their knowledge about their family member
  • Allows the family to see their relative flourish socially and emotionally
  • Helps the family to prepare their relative for the changes that will occur when the family can no longer provide care
  • Enables the family to shape and define the nature of the network and to see it fully functioning
  • Gives the family security, relief and peace of mind
  • Enables an organisation such as planNET to have the detailed background and familiarity it needs to become an effective advocate and monitor

4: What are some suggestions for parents who have requested a network?

  • Believe that a strong relationship will develop
  • Listen to other people’s ideas
  • Make connections with other parents who have gone through the same experience
  • Learn to let go of at least some of the things you have always done for your relative.
  • Understand that it is a process and it takes time

5: Who can be involved in a network?

The goal is to surround your loved one with a group of people who are genuinely interested in seeing that they have a good life. It is generally people who your relative knows and feels comfortable with and who can bring useful experiences, information and positive attitudes into the group. They might share a common interest or role. If a person’s life experiences are limited, the first step might be to open up community-based opportunities from which relationships can grow. But it is important that people also share the values of planNET around inclusion, contribution, and community involvement.

Members of a network may include other family members (particularly brothers and sisters), neighbours, members of church congregations, services clubs, leisure and recreation groups, former support workers, teachers and classmates.

(Note – these are all freely-given relationships, which would preclude current support staff from becoming network members.)

6: What is the role of a network member?

It is the primary role of a network member to be a friend. This covers a wide range of activities and may include:

  • Connecting by phone or email
  • Calling by or meeting for coffee or a meal
  • Arranging regular and one off outings
  • Rejoicing and celebrating good outcomes and achievements
  • Supporting in times of sadness and disappointment
  • Listening
  • Brain-storming and problem solving
  • Encouraging dreams
  • Encouraging the development of gifts and talents
  • Sharing experiences and having fun

The unique experience and knowledge of individual network members means that they may also contribute by:

  • Mentoring, advising
  • Providing expertise
  • Advocating
  • Monitoring services
  • Connecting with the community

Without doubt the life of a person with a disability is enriched by these freely given relationships but as with all relationships they are not one way. They are mutually rewarding – everyone benefits.

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7: Why pay a Network Facilitator when I can do that myself for FREE?

While many people can indeed do that themselves, the high level of time and energy required means that it is often not done. For those families who do undertake to build a circle themselves, what happens when they are no longer in a position to maintain it? The circle would at that point begin to fall away, just at a time when the individual needed their circle of friends the most. Hence the independent facilitator.

Without someone proactively keeping things together and on track, many networks fall off the rails and become token gatherings where people attend out of obligation, not genuine interest. To be thriving, effective and long standing, networks need to offer positive outcomes for all people involved. Achieving this takes careful planning and nurturing. At PlanNET we only engage people with outstanding people skills, who understand the vulnerabilities associated with disability and are experienced in community building.

8: How can this model provide long term peace of mind?

PlanNET was started by families concerned about the life of their loved one when they were no longer in a position to care for them. Because PlanNET is not dependent on government monies to survive we are not subject to the whims of government and the availability of funding, thus providing security about our longevity. This also means that, if necessary, we are able to speak up on behalf of a person without the fear of losing government funding.

9: How can we finance the monthly payments?

Monthly maintenance fees will depend on the stage of your network’s development. Some are paying through personal finance, others through their Disability Support Pension, Carer’s Allowance or compensation packages, while others allocate a portion of their NDIS funding to network development.

If network development is something you want to pursue, you will need to ask for ‘Increased social and community participation’ at your NDIS planning meeting.

10: We don’t have a Person Centred Plan. How do we get one?

Person Centred Planning is a process of individual discovery and action that enables the individual to lead their own life.

Our ‘Making a Plan’ workshops were designed for this particular purpose. We run the series periodically when there is a group of individuals or families (from 4 – 6) ready to undertake the process. We believe that one of the best ways to learn is to be joined by others on the same journey, and families have found this method to be most helpful.

The workshop takes people through the stages of creating a vision, identifying goals, making a plan, and implementing that plan. Such plans then form the basis upon which a network is built, and can also inform other plans like NEPs, care plans and independent living plans.

For more information, please click here.  To register your interest in enrolling in a ‘Making a Plan’ workshop, please contact us.

11: Are PlanNET’s services limited to those with a particular disability?

No. Networks have been developed around people who have intellectual disabilities, limited verbal communication, mental health issues, sensory impairments, acquired and physical disabilities. As long as the individual has been consulted and is consenting to the development of a network of support, we are happy to work with you and your family member.

12: My Mum is ageing, frail and all of her friends have passed on. Can we access services from PlanNET?

Certainly. Age is not a factor in the delivery of our services and we would be looking to connect a person in this situation to new friendships and support. Sometimes the composition of a network is strategic. Our facilitators will work with you to determine who to invite. You may choose to sit in the network yourself.

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13: My son’s friends have deserted him since he acquired his brain injury. How would a network be developed around him?

Acting on the direction of the focus person, our staff would make contact and offer information, support and disability awareness to these people, in a sensitive way. Our proactive approach aims to break down the myths and stereotypes surrounding disability and make contact comfortable for all network members. Outside of former friends, we would look at strategically linking them to people based on the individual’s interests and gifts.

14: Our relative is very vulnerable. How safe is this?

It is well known that people with a number of good quality relationships in their life are much safer from exploitation and abuse. With diligent and trusted people keeping an eye on your loved one, their vulnerability decreases significantly. While there is an option to check the criminal history of network members, in society we don’t usually have our friends checked, so trust must be built.

Your PlanNET Facilitator will get to know your relative well and be present for all network gatherings. Our Network Facilitators have all had a Department for Communities and Social Inclusion screening assessment, and will have undertaken training in Mandatory Notification.

15: Do personal networks replace families?

No. The family relationship remains the same, but the introduction of a network will give opportunity for new relationships and new opportunities that may have been beyond the scope or dreams of the family. As relationships within the network develop, individual network members may decide to take on certain roles that have traditionally been done by the family (e.g. arranging medical appointments, researching housing options).

Relationships grow of their own accord, given opportunity and time, and PlanNET’s role is to ‘invite intentional relationships’. When strong and enduring relationships develop out of that, it is cause for joy, that perhaps the family can take one step back and begin to see the fruits of the network.

16: Do networks replace social services?

No. However, they do minimise the isolating and sometimes impersonal aspects of human services. And they reduce reliance on paid service provision by involving the individual in relationships and connecting them to the community

17: How can a network help after I am gone?

The network will:

  • Ensure continuity of activities and support based on the facilitated person centred plan
  • Serve as an advisor and resource to the trustee(s) the family has selected. Some members of networks may be prepared to assist parents by serving as executors and trustees
  • Advocate on behalf of the disabled relative
  • Monitor the services and programs the disabled relative receives
  • Provide emotional support
  • Ease the grief and trauma associated with your passing.

18: Do I need to add a clause in my will about PlanNET so that the network continues past my lifetime?

To ensure the continuity of services for your relative in the event of your passing, a simple addition to your will can provide security. Without this in place, your PlanNET facilitator may be unable to continue their role in maintaining your loved one’s network and most likely it will cease to function, taking with it the security it provides. If your will instructs your executors to continue payments to PlanNET, we will ensure they are surrounded by trusted companions for the rest of their life. Such a minor adjustment can only add to your peace of mind. PlanNET can put you in touch with professionals who can assist you to write and implement a clause such as this.

19: What are the limitations of networks?

Networks do not work miracles. They require hard work, perseverance and commitment. Networks are no guarantee that all will be well. A lifetime of isolation or loneliness cannot be overcome immediately. New contacts take months before they mature into nurturing relationships. The process can be slow and may at first seem as if nothing is happening. But even though results may take time, pleasant surprises occur frequently (see for a good example of this).

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