Exceptional Needs Unit

The Exceptional Needs Unit (ENU) is a multi-disciplinary team in the Department of Human Services.

The team works with systems and services to help support people and families who have multiple complex needs and risk factors. The ENU works in particular with people and families who are facing barriers to accessing appropriate supports or who are struggling to get their complex needs well met by existing services.

Who we are

  • Exceptional Needs Response Team
  • Inclusion Support Program
  • Specialist Family Support Pathways, including:
    • Voluntary Out-of-Home Care
    • Early Intervention and Prevention for Out-of-Home Care
    • Non-Resident Disability Support.

  • Care Service Pathway
  • ENU Business Service
  • ENU Nunga Team

The team works across the lifespan and across South Australia.

What do we mean by exceptional needs?

Exceptional needs cannot be described in a single sentence, or in the same way for everyone who has exceptional needs.

However, people and families who have exceptional needs generally:

  • have many needs
  • are currently at risk, and
  • require support from multiple services.

The services with which they are involved sometimes:

  • cannot offer the right cultural approach
  • cannot offer services in the right location
  • struggle with collaborating and working with other services, or
  • encounter needs and risk factors that cannot easily be met or managed.

A person with exceptional needs may:

  • behave in ways that are very difficult to manage, and that threaten their own or others' safety
  • have a mental health diagnosis that is difficult to manage with medication alone and affects their ability to live without daily living support
  • have experience of complex trauma, including family violence, family breakdown and abuse (sexual, emotional, physical)
  • live with disability and complex health problems that are often neglected
  • be socially isolated
  • have a history of homelessness and have been involved with the criminal justice system, including youth detention and prison.

Eligibility for ENU support

Referrals are accepted from organisations and services only, not from people or family members.

Eligibility for ENU support has two parts:

  • a person and/or their family must be at risk or be a risk to others
  • mainstream services must have been attempted and found to be ineffective, not helpful, inappropriate, or not coordinating and working together.

Eligibility for an ENU service cannot be described simply by a single set of statements or by a single set of circumstances or conditions. Each person and family’s eligibility is based on interconnected factors, and the careful consideration of a person and family’s issues and circumstances.

The ENU is a pathway of last resort. Organisations and services must give evidence that other support options have been explored.

Each referral to the ENU is assessed by a senior clinical staff member, and eligibility for services is decided by an Intake Committee of the ENU’s leadership team.

The ENU also supports capacity building assistance across the sector, through training, grants, information sharing and service navigation.

How to apply

Contact the ENU office for information or assistance. A duty officer will respond to your request.

You may be sent a referral pack to complete which forms the basis of an assessment and subsequent recommendation to the ENU Intake Committee.

The ENU is an inclusive and culturally safe service that welcomes referrals for clients of all ages, cultures, disabilities, ethnicities, faiths, gender identities, sex characteristics and sexual orientations.


Phone 1300 208 589
Email dhs.exceptionalneeds@sa.gov.au


The ENU is not a crisis or emergency service. If life is in danger, phone 000 (triple zero) or contact emergency services.

Page last updated 24 November 2023