Department of Human Services

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

The ENU includes the:

  • Exceptional Needs Response Team, including:
    • Adult Services Team
    • Youth and Family Services Team
  • Inclusion Support Program
  • Voluntary out of Home Care Program.

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, individuals 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 have many of these needs:

  • 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 only, not from individuals.

To be eligible, a person and/or their family:

  • needs to be at risk or be at risk to others, and
  • mainstream services need to have been attempted, and aren’t working, helping or appropriate, or are 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 a person and family’s issues and circumstances are considered.

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 provides capacity building assistance to the sector, through training, grants, information sharing and service navigation.

How to apply

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

A referral pack may be forwarded to you to get detailed information that forms the basis of an assessment and subsequent recommendation to the ENU Intake Committee.


The ENU is not a crisis or emergency service.

If life is in danger, phone 000 (triple zero) or contact one of South Australia's emergency services.


Phone 1300 208 589

Page last updated : 11 Oct 2022

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