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Web-based youth charity YouthNet UK is to use a £850,000 grant from the National Lottery to set up an interactive advice service.

The service launches in the autumn and is hosted on TheSite.org, a Youthnet site. Professional youth counsellors will man the mouses, providing a confidential advice service for people aged 16 to 25.

Specific plans have yet to be finalised, but instant messaging is up for consideration as one way that counsellors will interact with those in search of advice.

Youthnet hopes the Web's anonymity will make people more open when they discuss their problems.

TheSite - which currently serves around a million pages a month - was launched in 1995 and deals openly with a number of issues, including drugs and sex. It doesn't pull any punches.

It says it's up to young people to make their own decisions and life choices - its role is to provide impartial, objective and ethical advice.

However, some disagree with this approach. In November 2000 the Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme pulped 100,000 booklets because they promoted TheSite. ®

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