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The characteristic feature of the society is the annual division of funds, which are proportionately distributed among the members of each class after all claims thereon have been met. Representatives of deceased members participate in proportion to the amounts paid in by such members. Members of Class A receive double the amount of those in Class B and must leave 2s. (49 cents) as a balance to be carried forward to the next year; members of Class B leave ls. (24 cents). In event the amount for distribution exceeds the sums of £1 ($4.87) and £2 ($9.73) per capita for the respective classes, the excess goes to a reserve fund, which may be drawn upon at such times as the distribution may fall short of the sums above named.

It is clear, therefore, that this society departs considerably from the methods of the typical slate club or dividing society, since it seeks not only to perpetuate its membership, but likewise its funds, and even proposes to place the funeral reserve on an actuarial basis. These facts bring it under the requirements as to valuation and the audit of accounts. It proposes furthermore to conduct its business not as a local society, but as one of national scope, and reports in 1908 that it “is now represented in most of the provincial cities and towns of the Kingdom by small but increasing coteries of members, and seems destined to assume something of the character of a national institution by reason of the fact that removal involves no loss of privilege or benefit.”

Its report of growth of membership shows that for each year the growth was greater than that of the preceding year, the membership in 1908 being 8,165. The following table gives a record of the growth and the principal financial transactions of the society for fifteen years, 1894 to 1908:


(Source: Seventeenth Report and Balance Sheet, 1908.)





Sick pay.

Funeral benefits.


Per capita.(a)


1894. 1895. 1896. 1897 1898. 1899 1900. 1901. 1902 1903. 1904. 1905. 1906. 1907 1908

110 181 248 319 463 699

900 1,329 1,750 2, 472 3, 647 4, 426 5, 632 6,904 8,165

1, 771
3, 475
18, 999
28, 985
35, 949
54, 602


1, 265
6, 472

73 170 195 146 292

97 462 243

779 1,484 2, 253 2,316 3,869


939 1,387 2,073 3,012 4,214 5, 635

7,845 10, 609 15, 222 23, 345 27,827 35, 321 43. 696 52,670

$5.11 5. 47 5.11 5. 72 5. 47 5.35 5. 23 4.93 4.99 5. 11 5. 15 5.03 5. 01 5.09 5.11

a For Class B: Class A received double these amounts.

The next table is a summary of the receipts and expenditures for the year 1908, distributed by the classes of accounts.



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Medical and burial societies for the cooperative meeting of the expenditures indicated by their titles may next be mentioned. The former may be merely a club which engages for its members the services of a doctor at a uniform rate of cost met from the club funds, or it may be an association of friendly societies and branches maintaining a hospital and staff of physicians and surgeons, or it may occupy any intermediate position between the two. Burial societies, designated in the law as collecting societies, prevail more extensively among the less provident of the poorer classes and have among their members a large proportion of young children. Abuses in the way of overinsurance and consequent indifference as to the recovery of sick children have been reported as following the workings of societies of this class, as well as that of excessive charges for collection and management, whereby in some instances nearly onehalf the contributions of the members are absorbed. The abuse of overinsurance of children with its attendant temptations is the subject of legislation which requires payments to be made only to the parent of the deceased or to a personal representative of such parent, and limits the amount payable to £6 ($29) in the event of the death of a child under 5 years of age, and to £10 ($19) for one between 5 and 10. If insurance or other payments are derivable from two or more sources, the total must not exceed the amounts named. Inspections and investigations by the registrars of friendly societies have had a beneficial effect in checking the waste in the matter of expenses. More difficult to reach is the practice of dropping members, which was formerly within the power of the collector whenever he might for any reason wish or be instructed to do so. Merely by the collector's refraining from calling for the dues, the insured person having no knowledge of how to reach the central office and frequently unable to do so if he had the knowledge, the policy speedily fell into arrears and then lapsed, with a forfeiture of all previous payments or possible benefits. The eagerness of the poor to escape a pauper burial and the payment of the insurance immediately after death, together with the artful insistence of agents and collectors, have kept such societies in existence, the favorable points remaining fixed in mind more persistently, apparently, than the proportionately high cost and the numerous lapses.

Societies of this class are subject to the Collecting Societies and Industrial Assurance Companies Act, 1896, whether registered as friendly societies or not. One important feature of this law is the requirement of 14 days' notice, with opportunity for paying up arrears, before any policy can be forfeited for nonpayment of contributions. The report of the chief registrar for 1906 showed 37 collecting societies in England, 7 in Scotland, and 1 in Ireland, with an annual income in excess of £3,397,000 ($16,531,501) and funds amounting to £8,469,000 ($41,214,389). In 1908 the number of societies in the respective divisions of the United Kingdom were 45, 8, and 2, the income having increased to more than £3,944,000 ($19,193,476) and the funds to £9,946,000 ($48,402,209).


The principal facts concerning the financial working of societies of this class for the years 1906 and 1908 appear in the following table:



(Source: Reports of the Chief Registrar of Friendly Societies for the years ending December 31, 1906

and 1908.)

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These tables illustrate the points of criticism of societies of this class, the amounts paid out as benefits being, on the average, slightly less than the cost of management for each year. The excess is also somewhat greater for 1908 than for 1906, though accumulated funds receive a larger percentage of the funds in the later year, drawing somewhat from both benefit and management accounts. Another difference that is favorable, though slight, is that the percentage of income from other sources than direct contributions is larger in 1908 than in 1906.

Three collecting societies in England reported members in 1906 to the number of 2,249,341 for the largest, 2,190,027 for the next, and 2,101,236 for the third. The next largest society of the sort is in Scotland, and reported 901,286 members. Thus out of a total membership of 8,398,233 persons at the end of the year, 7,441,890 were to be found in four societies, leaving the remainder to the 48 remaining societies reporting in this class for the year.

A secretary of the largest of these societies stated that "I always calculate that at least two-thirds of the people who become insured in our office, and in similar institutions, allow their policies to lapse, and consequently deprive themselves of the benefit;" and added, “I believe that it is possible for a life office not doing any sick or endowment business to carry on its business without any accumulated fund, considering the lapses.” This society reported 912,803 members admitted during 1906, with 52,503 losses by death, and 684,610 from "other causes,” which practically means lapses. The other two larger societies mentioned above had, respectively, 524,663 accessions, 40,028 deaths, and 396,626 losses from other causes; and 689,949 accessions, 33,379 deaths, and 507,473 losses from other causes. All societies reporting had 2,752,127 accessions, 162,329 losses by death, and 2,073,780 losses by other causes, making a net gain in membership during the year of 516,018, or but 18.7 per cent of the number of accessions.


A form of friendly societies that is distinct from all others is known as deposit friendly societies, combining savings bank functions with those of a provident society. The distinguishing characteristic of these societies is that the amount of sick relief is not measured alone by the amount of insurance carried, but by the amount of savings deposited as well. Thus continued sickness may exhaust not only the insurance benefits, properly so-called, but may also wipe out the deposit account, after which all benefits cease. The idea of the originator of this plan was that the members would be constrained to avoid malingering and would use all efforts to retain a balance so as to hold membership; while the fact that every allowance for sickness involves a pro rata impairment of the deposit account assures that only in cases of actual necessity will benefits be claimed.

The scheme of the original society involved the division of the membership into five groups on the basis of their likelihood to require relief. A uniform premium is charged for all members, the sick rate being based on a simple average of the sickness during the preceding five years. Members of the first class (least likely to require relief) pay one-fourth of their sick allowance from their own fund, the remainder coming from the sick fund of the society; those of the second class pay one-third, of the third class one-half, of the fourth class two-thirds, and of the fifth class five-sixths of their own sick allowance. When the member is unable to draw his allotted portion of relief from his own fund, all claims cease. Old-age allowances were similarly regulated, while medical attendance was provided for partly by a small annual rate and partly according to a special scheme. The system is therefore not one of insurance so much as of savings, and for this reason it has been said that it should never have been classed as a friendly society. A number of organizations patterned more or less closely after this original have, however, made a growth that gives them national scope and influence.

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