Nussbaum's capabilities approach highlights the need for integrating vulnerability, dependency and care work with liberal principles of individuality and rationality. However, capabilities offer a statist, juridical and formal model of objectified care, whose adoption would lead to greater paternalism, especially in the context of public welfare institutions in India. This article argues that one needs to move beyond liberal theory, while engaging with vulnerability and care work in institutional contexts. It defends informal care as a multilayered practice in public sector institutions in India, to which deliberation is central. It acknowledges the inevitability of flexibility, interdependence, plurality and particularity in informal caregiving practice.