Department of Human Services

Exceptional Needs Unit

The Exceptional Needs Unit (ENU) is a team within the Department of Human Services that works to help navigate systems to assist individuals and families who may be stuck, facing complex responses or are confronted by barriers in accessing appropriate supports.

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, persons and families who have exceptional needs generally have many needs and require support from more than one service — often from many services. The services with which they are involved sometimes get stuck, struggle with collaborating and working together, or there may be needs that can’t easily be met by existing services.

A person with exceptional needs will usually have a number of the following 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)
  • experience extremely poor and complex health problems that are often neglected
  • have a history of homelessness and have been involved with the criminal justice system, including youth detention and prison.

Eligibility for ENU support

Each referral to the Exceptional Needs Unit is assessed by a senior practitioner, and eligibility for services is decided by an Intake Committee of senior officers.

Eligibility for an Exceptional Needs Unit service cannot be described simply by a single set of statements or by a single set of circumstances or conditions. Each person and families  'eligibility' is based on interconnected factors, and a person and families issues and circumstances are considered.

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.

Referrals are accepted from organisations only, not from individuals.

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.


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


Phone: 8448 4610

Page last updated : 19 Oct 2020

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